With those profound words, The Bishop, with bruised eye and stern face, looks straight into the face of desperate and broken Jean Valjean, the man who had just robbed and beat him. The very night before Jean had freely received generous and vulnerable hospitality from the bishop’s own table. But this? The unspoken question awkwardly lingers, “Would you, would I, have responded in the same way?”

Having just tangibly shown this profound forgiveness, stunning grace, and abundant mercy by covering for the obvious transgression of the guilty assailant standing in front of authorities, the bishop lovingly yet firmly reminds the man to never, ever, forget his promise to live as a new man. He then places the full pack of stolen silver back into the hands of Jean.

Convicted in his soul over his fill of guilt, and in honest bewilderment of his being totally set free, Jean Valjean asks the bishop, “Why do you do this?”

The bishop, firmly looking at him face-to-face, said, Jean Valjean, my brother. You no longer belong to Evil. With this silver, I bought your soul. I’ve ransomed you from Fear and Hatred. And now, I give you back to God.


Take aways from this searching movie scene of Les Miserables:

  • This is what Mercy is – giving someone something they do NOT deserve.
  • This is what Grace is – NOT giving someone something they DO deserve.
  • This is what Forgiveness is – letting go of what is rightly held against someone.
  • This is what Love is – directing someone back to God, with the hope of a new Life.

With which character do you most identify? Jean Valjean, because your life is still lived, in brokenness and desperation, as your own? The Bishop, because you once were like Jean Valjean, but now get it? Both, because you see yourself as caught in the struggle between the two; the old and the new man? You know you are not as free as you are meant to be in Christ?

Consequently, are you personally moved by this scene? I certainly am… every time.

Three questions to consider in this season of Lent:

  • Are you, are we, in touch with mercy, grace, forgiveness, and love as it is to be tangibly expressed?
  • If you have been given back to God, have you somewhere freely received these for yourself?
  • If so, fellow traveler in Christ, do you freely give?

Freely you have received, freely give.
Matthew 10:8b NIV