By Lane Noble
When I was fourteen years old, my English teacher took my class to go see the stage version of Les Miserables. At the time, no one in our grade new of this life changing story. Nor did we really care to. As far as we were concerned this was just another field trip that was only good for getting us out of class.
While I had difficulty following the stage version at first, from the first beat I was captivated by the music in the show. Now, to be fair, I have always had a bit of an unusual taste in music, so let’s just say that more than likely the rest of my classmates weren’t nearly as drawn into it as I was, but nonetheless, I sat back and enjoyed it.
I remember trying to recall the melodies of such classics from the show such as Master of the House and Look Down. The very next day, I determined to find the songs from the show.
Eventually, after listening to the soundtrack for awhile, I decided that I would watch the movie. I bought the DVD at the store and watched it, and was completely moved by it. It’s safe to say that that movie changed me for the better.
If you’re not familiar with Les Miserables, the basic plot of the story surrounds a man who lived in nineteenth century France named Jean Valjean who was imprisoned for nineteen years. As a result, his life was ruined and he was no longer treated as an equal in society. When it seemed all hope of living a decent life was lost, a church bishop finds him sleeping in the cold, and brings him inside his own home. The bishop proceeds to feed him and give him a place to sleep.
Lather that night, Jean Valjean gets up and steals some of the bishop’s valuables, then runs off with them. When the police bring him back to the bishop to ask if the items were stolen, the bishop tells the police that he gave those items to Valjean and that they could go in peace. The bishop gives Valjean the means to get back on his feat financially and tells him that from now on he needs to live his life with integrity. The grace that the bishop extended to Valjean changed his life forever, and from then on he lived not only a life of success, but one of love and compassion. As a result, many other lives are changed.
You don’t have to love musicals to understand why that story is so powerful. There are other aspects to it as well, but it would take me too long to go through those. The point is, the story of Les Miserables is probably one of the greatest fictional stories of mercy and love ever written, and, in my view, is highly underrated.
Not long after I saw the movie, I read through the entire book of Matthew for the very first time. I remember very specifically reading a particular passage and thinking of Les Miserables. I think that Les Miserables is a great illustration of this passage:
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. or do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
In the movie, after Jean Valjean is helped by the bishop, he gives glory to God. Later on, Valjean adopts the daughter of a dying prostitute to ensure that she doesn’t go into poverty. Just before she dies, the prostitute redeclares her belief in a loving God shortly after denounces Him. The whole movie is full of people coming to give glory to God primarily through the work of His servants.
I really can’t convey how great this movie is through words. One needs to watch it in order to truly understand just how moving it really is. The bottom line is this: What we can learn from this wonderful movie is that God primarily saves people through His messengers. Namely, His people. We not only share the Gospel through words, but through actions. In fact, if nonbelievers don’t see us acting out our faith, why should we expect them to believe a word of the Gospel. We want them to see just how much the Gospel has transformed us, and, hopefully, they will come to want that transformation themselves.
People need to hear the Gospel. That’s vital. However, what we can learn from Les Miserables is that people should not only hear the Gospel, but they should see the results of the Gospel. They should see our changed lives. We need to show people how Christ has changed our lives, because Christ can change their lives too.