Saturday, January 12, 2013

"To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume."

I watched Les Miserables last weekend. The singing & filming were breathtaking, but it was the story that was my total undoing. It was drenched in grace, sacrifice, love, forgiveness, mercy, repentance, victory....all that epic, goose bumpy, glorious stuff.
I could easily go on and on and on about each and every perfect detail but I'll merely mention the one part that I especially loved. If you are familiar with the story, you will know that it shows the contrast of law & of grace.
     Both Jean Valjean & Javert are sinners. Both are freely given undeserved, unrequested, complete forgiveness of their trespasses. Grace is extended to both, and both have such completely opposite responses.

Jean Valjean is a thief. He stole bread to feed his starving family and was then sentenced to 20 years in prison and was forever branded with the label: thief. He would never be able to find work or shelter again and would never be trusted. One night a priest offers him a place to stay. He gives him food, a bed, and calls him brother. Jean Val Jean repays his kindness by stealing his silver and running off into the night. He is caught and brought back to the Priests home. The constable says that Valjean argued that the priest had given him the silver as a gift. To which the priest responded:

That is right.
But my friend you left so early
Surely something slipped your mind

[The bishop gives Valjean two silver candlesticks]

You forgot I gave these also;
Would you leave the best behind?
So, Messieurs, you may release him
For this man has spoken true.
I commend you for your duty
And God's blessing go with you.

[The constables leave.]

And remember this, my brother,
See in this some high plan.
You must use this precious silver
To become an honest man.
By the witness of the martyrs,
By the passion and the blood,
God has raised you out of darkness:
I have bought your soul for God.

The next scene is of Jean Val Jean kneeling in prayer in the church.

What have I done?
Sweet Jesus, what have I done?
Become a thief in the night,
Become a dog on the run
And have I fallen so far,
And is the hour so late
That nothing remains but the cry of my hate,
The cries in the dark that nobody hears,
Here where I stand at the turning of the years?

If there's another way to go
I missed it twenty long years ago
My life was a war that could never be won
They gave me a number and murdered Valjean
When they chained me and left me for dead
Just for stealing a mouthful of bread

Yet why did I allow that man
To touch my soul and teach me love?
He treated me like any other
He gave me his trust
He called me brother
My life he claims for God above
Can such things be?
For I had come to hate the world
This world that always hated me

Take an eye for an eye!
Turn your heart into stone!
This is all I have lived for!
This is all I have known!

One word from him and I'd be back
Beneath the lash, upon the rack
Instead he offers me my freedom
I feel my shame inside me like a knife
He told me that I have a soul,
How does he know?
What spirit comes to move my life?
Is there another way to go?

I am reaching, but I fall
And the night is closing in
And I stare into the void
To the whirlpool of my sin
I'll escape now from the world
From the world of Jean Valjean
Jean Valjean is nothing now
Another story must begin!

Oh! I love it! As he sings the end of this song he tears apart the his parole papers and casts them into the wind. "He is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"

"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God." Grace.....freely given & gladly accepted.  It was poured into Jean Val Jean's life and spilled over into the lives of everyone that Val Jean met.

In comparison we have Javert. He is a task master, a dictator of the law. He has spent years searching for Jean Valjean to bring him to justice. Time after time Javert is at the mercy of Jean Valjean. Valjean could have been free of him & killed, but each time he gives to him the forgiveness & grace that he was shown years ago by the priest. Javert doesn't know what to do with it, he cannot accept it & is baffled by it....

Who is this man?
What sort of devil is he
To have me caught in a trap
And choose to let me go free?
It was his hour at last
To put a seal on my fate
Wipe out the past
And wash me clean off the slate!
All it would take
Was a flick of his knife.
Vengeance was his
And he gave me back my life!

Damned if I'll live in the debt of a thief!
Damned if I'll yield at the end of the chase.
I am the Law and the Law is not mocked
I'll spit his pity right back in his face
There is nothing on earth that we share
It is either Valjean or Javert!

How can I now allow this man
To hold dominion over me?
This desperate man whom I have hunted
He gave me my life. He gave me freedom.
I should have perished by his hand
It was his right.
It was my right to die as well
Instead I live... but live in hell.

And my thoughts fly apart
Can this man be believed?
Shall his sins be forgiven?
Shall his crimes be reprieved?

And must I now begin to doubt,
Who never doubted all these years?
My heart is stone and still it trembles
The world I have known is lost in shadow.
Is he from heaven or from hell?
And does he know
That granting me my life today
This man has killed me even so?

I am reaching, but I fall
And the stars are black and cold
As I stare into the void
Of a world that cannot hold
I'll escape now from the world
From the world of Jean Valjean.
There is nowhere I can turn
There is no way to go on....

 The power of mercy and forgiveness is too much to bear. Javert throws himself to his death into a rushing river.

This was on of the most powerful movies I have ever seen. I am so excited that such a blatantly christian movie that so clearly tells of grace & the gospel is being shown in theaters across the world. Watch it, love it, watch it again.

"But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life." 2 Corinthians 2:14-16

****note: this movie is most emphatically not family friendly. There is one segment/song that icky, yucky,nasty, and perverse. You may just want to look away as soon as you see Helena Bonham Carter. Also, Fontine is a prostitute and  there is one very graphic scene. So, just be aware. Don't bring your 5 year old.

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