Thursday, December 27, 2012

Theology at the Theater–Les Miserables

The movie version of the musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables opened in theaters yesterday, and our family was one of many who went to see it. At about this time last year, PWM and I saw the musical on stage at the PAC in Appleton. I completely fell in love with it. The movie adaptation is also amazing. But, what is this about theology?

The two main characters, Jean Valjean and Javert, embody grace and law, respectively. Early in the film, Jean Valjean is shown grace by a priest and is then told by the priest that he has been saved to do good. Valjean goes on to show grace – unmerited favor – to those around him, including Javert.

Javert, on the other hand, rigidly believes that the law must be followed in every situation and that there is no place for grace. He cannot fathom that Valjean even extends grace to him.

These are the two ways that we can approach life. We can try to follow the law, which is what many religions tell us we must do, but we find that we aren’t able. The outcome is only despair, as Javert discovers.

Accepting God’s grace (and, of course, extending it to others) is the other way we can live. This is so freeing! We don’t have to worry about whether or not we are good enough for God to love us. We can forgive others and let go of those debts that are owed us. Jean Valjean doesn’t have an easy life, but he has the freedom to extend grace to others, including Javert. In the end, his life has had more meaning.

Yes, it’s a movie about love, romance, freedom, the human spirit, and all of that other stuff, but it’s ultimately about grace. And the music isn’t bad, either.

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