The World of Jean Valjean

*spoiler alert* Most friends I’ve talked to who saw Les Miserables at the theater this holiday season would probably agree that it was pretty well-done, and even though I found myself wishing they would’ve cast Gerard Butler as Javier, or anyone except Russell Crowe, I loved the music and loved the story.

Its basically the story of Jean Valjean, a man convicted of theivery and sentenced to several years in prison, but released on parole.  While on parole, one act of grace from a priest that he tries to steal silver from leaves him a radically changed man.  Valjean is given a second chance by the priest, and his entire life is lived out of gratitude for that gift of grace.  He changes his name, flees his parole, and becomes a successful business man seeking to extend grace to everyone around him.

In the meantime, there is Javert, the police inspector played by Russell Crowe, who believes in nothing but law and order.  Javert is inflexible in his enforcement of the law, and incapable of compassion or mercy.  He is the opposite of Valjean, and the reason he pursues Valjean with such tenacity is that he believes Valjean’s existence is an affront to justice.  Javert assumes that men or women are good or evil based upon their adherance to the law, and never stops to question the just-ness of the law itself.  In the end, Javert is unable to decisively conclude whether Valjean legitimately deserves punishment.  In the song, Javert’s suicide, he longs for “escape from the world of Jean Valjean,” because he cannot reconcile the now-present reality that a man isn’t necessarily evil just because the law says so with his beliefs.

Some people cannot handle the “world of Jean Valjean.”  That is, they cannot accept the free grace of God.  It seems inconceivable to them to let themselves off the hook.  When law is the only standard for justice, the world of Jean Valjean is overwhelming.  Its not coneivable, realistic, or fair.  In the world of Jean Valjean, grace levels the playing field, and puts all men and women within reach of God.  It is scandalous to those who feel they have earned something, or deserve something.  Its offensive to those who feel entitled.  The scandalous grace of which Jean Valjean found himself a recipient explodes upon a world enslaved to the burden of guilt and illuminates it with the lightened load of forgiveness and mercy. 

And once you find yourself in that world, once you start to view life through a lens of grace with an unshakeable awareness that you are a reciever with no right to what you have been given, you cannot help but extend that grace to other undeserving souls in acts of kindness and mercy. 

The world of Jean Valjean is a world enraptured by the grace of God.

Its a world that began at the Cross of Christ.

You’re invited.


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