What do miserable men do about sin?

Posted: March 26, 2013 by Emilio Garofalo Neto in Musical, Uncategorized
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I am simply building upon Josh’s excellent article about this excellent movie. Seriously. Read it first and then come back here. And yes, spoilers abound.

If you did as I said and read Josh’s post you know what the story is about. By now you know that pretty much everyone loved the movie; except folks who paid to see a musical and then were angry that there was too much… brace yourselves…music.

Let’s expand on the topic of sin and grace.

We all have the experience of mourning over our sins, of crying over our errors. The eternal difference will have to do with how we deal with such sorrow; if we treat it under the cross of Christ (repentance unto life) or if we dwell in the hopelessness of our condition (remorse that does not lead to life).

Jean Valjean received grace. He did not deserve it at all. He had been imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread and his penalty seems to us too much. Yet he is released and steals again. But the grace demonstrated to him changes him, slowly, but surely. That simple action of grace is enough to begin a chain of gracious actions and behaviors that set the pattern of the life of many. This same man at the end of his life is crying-praying-singing: “Forgive me all my trespasses and take me to your glory”

Contrast this with Javert.

He also receives back his life – he has grace shown to him. Yet, for him grace is a prison; he wants law, he thinks he can live by law alone. He sings :

“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?”

These two guys remind me of Peter and Judas around the time of Christ’s prison.

Peter had promised, had sworn, had guaranteed that no way in hell he would betray Jesus. Jesus warned him, and still Peter denied knowing Jesus, and he cussed and sworn that he did not know the Nazarene when times got tough. In that moment he heard the rooster crow and Jesus met him with his eyes. The Bible tells us that Peter wept bitterly. Yet, Peter was restored; by Jesus’ loving look, but Jesus’ loving deeds and words of restoring his brother Peter and making him a rock of grace. And this transforming grace in Peter to this day blesses us in the reading and preaching of the New Testament.

Judas also betrayed Christ. He had been with him for a long time; he had seen the miracles, heard the sermons, perceived how Jesus lived and loved. And yet, he was dissatisfied with grace. He was angry with the wasteful grace of Mary Magdalene using the expensive perfume to anoint Jesus’ feet. Later he regretted his betrayal, went back to the leaders of the Jews and proclaimed that he had done wrong in betraying an innocent man. Yet, his tears before the grace of Christ do not lead to redemption like Peter, it leads to sadness, but then to suicide. Like Javert.

How will we react to grace? Will we choose to forsake our lives and hide in Christ? Or will we seek to save ourselves and ignore his call? Unless you see yourself as a sinner with no righteousness of your own, grace will always seem like a prison, and death will sound like an option.

But if you understand that there is hope, not in yourself, but in grace, then there is life, and life in abundance.

At the very end of the movie the triumphant characters sing:

“Do you hear the people sing?
Lost in the valley of the night
It is the music of a people who are climbing to the light
For the wretched of the earth there is a flame that never dies
Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.
They will live again in freedom in the garden of the Lord
They will walk behind the ploughshed, the will put away the sword.”

There is a way of salvation for wretched, miseable men


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