Les Misérables -- Radical Mercy

After twenty years in prison, Jean Valjean finally gets out on parole. But any joy his liberation might have given him is shortlived, as his criminal record makes everyday survival nearly impossible. His employer, for example, refuses to pay him the same wages as his coworkers.

Thus Valjean's heart hardens even further. At that point, and with good reason, he would gladly take advantage anyone to help his survival. Shortly thereafter he finds lodging with a kindly, neighborhood Bishop. Valjean sees a chance to steal silver from the bishop, so he takes it. Soon after, the police catch Valjean and bring him back to the bishop for questioning. But the bishop tells them that Valjean was supposed to take that silver... not only that but some other household goods as well. Thus the kindly bishop managed to "buy" ValJean's soul for God.

The bishop's actions toward Valjean demonstrate the power of mercy as well as the unexpected way God's kingdom works. The bishop understood and exercised Jesus' confounding instructions: "You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles" (Matthew 5, Sermon on the Mount) The bishop trusted that his treasure was in heaven so he took a chance to invest his worldly wealth for another person's spiritual well-being.

It is necessary to offset the evil momentum of the world with radical mercy. Thus, the kind bishop sacrificed his most valuable belongings to alter Valjean's bitter life-course.

It was not his twenty years in prison, but rather the bishop's groundbreaking kindness that corrected Valjean. He was transformed from a petty criminal into a powerful advocate for the common people, the weak and the downtrodden. He went from caring only for himself to becoming a full-time advocate for the poor, the abandoned and the orphaned.


Shubhajit said...

I'd watched the movie way back, but i remember having liked it. The ending was especially poignant i remember.

Shen-Shen said...

I've never seen this movie, although I believe it won an Oscar a while ago.. Perhaps I'll check it out some time!