On one of my rabbit trails on the computer this weekend, I read an article: Targeting 'Les Miserables' to Christians pays off at the box office. It made me angry: I was targeted? For money? The comments in response also made me angry, that's why I only read up to the 10th one before I shut down the computer for the night. Christians get a bad rap in our culture today, for many reasons. It's why it's so important that we, as Christians, seek to make our own culture: a new culture. That we aren't following the secular culture, but creating a better one that shows all the good and beautiful and amazing things about our God.
I went and saw the big-budget-Hollywood-musical Les Miserables on Friday night. You know, the one I was targeted for? Well done, Hollywood, you sucked me in. I paid the big bucks for the movies, which I hardly ever do. And I'm really not a musical fan, nor a big-budget Hollywood movie fan. I avoid them at whatever chance I get.
But I had this chance to go with my daughter, and my friend Vanessa, and I love quality time with people I love, so I went. I also knew the story of Les Miserables and I remember I really loved it, although it had been sometime since then. I went with an open mind, because "do you know they sing throughout the whole movie?" (Strike one in my head) and "I cried the whole way through!" I kept hearing from various friends who had seen it. (Strike two.) I do not cry in musicals. Or Hollywood big-budget movies. That is way too....lowbrow for me. (I'm kidding. Kind of.)
But I did. I cried. I cried when Fantine sang "I dreamed a dream", I cried about Cosette, I cried at the tragedies of life, the wretched, the miserable ones, the poor ones, the victims. I cried about love.
Jean Valjean is the main character, and he is a an ex-convict, imprisoned for stealing a bite of bread for his sister's child. He also tries numerous escape attempts and is therefore imprisoned for almost 20 years.
When he is finally "free" and tries to get work, he finds he cannot because of his "criminal" past. No one wants anything to do with him, until a Bishop named Myriel takes him in, and gives him food and shelter for the night. Valjean, desperate, and having no other means, steals Myriel's silver and leaves. When the police capture Valjean, Myriel pretends he has given the silver to Valjean, and presses him to take silver candlesticks as well. The police are fooled, and Valjean is left to go. Myriel speaks to Valjean in love and persuades him to make a better life for himself.
This act of love has deep impact on Valjean for the rest of his life. It causes him to repent, and to go to the Lord and ask Him what he should do. He is no longer, "Valjean" but he is a new man.
It is this act of love by Myriel that is a catalyst for how Valjean lives his life. From now on, his life is about giving, loving, and mercy. He never forgets the way he was loved, despite his past, despite his sinfulness. Myriel loved him and saw the best in him.
This simple truth....it made me cry. This simple truth of loving your fellow man despite his past, what he or she has done, despite how they have treated you, despite what they deserve. It is the ultimate story of redemption...starting with the Lord Jesus himself.
As a Christian, I can't help but compare the story of Valjean to my own life: I was a sinner, bound for hell, and Jesus...he saved me. He loved me. He took me anyway. He still does.
And...because of that? I have to love others. Not just the ones that are easy to love. But the ones that are hard to love. Especially the ones that are hard to love. The ones who've hurt me, who've stole from me, who are unkind to me. The man who honks behind me at the red light because I didn't move fast enough, the rude woman at the checkout line, the unappreciative or disobedient child, the "friend" who talks bad about me, the one who forgets about me, the husband who hurts me, the family member who just won't change. I have to love them because He loves me. The only way I can love them is if He loves me. It's how I can take that hurt, that pain, that emptiness, that loneliness, that frustration, that confusion, and turn it into an act of love for a fellow man. For a fellow man who in my eyes doesn't deserve it. But, hey, I don't deserve it either.
So, Hollywood, again I say, "well-done". You targeted me, you got me. Victor Hugo was right when he said: “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.” The fact that this movie was a musical is exactly why it touched my soul in a place that perhaps had some cobwebs there. Perhaps it opened my mind and heart a little more to love. To what God can do. To the wretchedness that we all are, and that this world needs more love, and that we, as Christians, are able to share that love, only because He first loved us.
“Even if we are hostile to God, reacting destructively towards life, violently reacting to the authority images we struggle with – God’s response as revealed in Jesus is not to crush us as we might expect, but to break the cycle of estrangement and rivalry with the transforming power of love. We see on the cross, in Richard Rohr’s terms, “the naked God”. God is made small, stripped naked, arms stretched out, so that our false image of a threatening judgmental God is taken away and God’s heart of love for us is revealed. The threat is removed; we have nothing to fight against. God surrenders first so we can give up the fight too and come home. The cycle of rivalry and violence is broken through the weakness of God on the cross.”
~ Richard Rohr
~ Richard Rohr