One of the most powerful stories of grace that I know of is Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables (“The Abused Ones” is one translation of the title). In its unabridged version the book is one of those never-ending publications that require dedication and fortitude to conquer. Think Charles Dickens but in French. Fortunately, there are good abridged English versions of the story for those of us who want Les Miserables without Hugo’s holding forth in explanations just in case someone did not absorb his points.
Not a reader? The story is now accessible for you. You can see it at the movies (or later on DVD). The movie is an adaptation of the original Broadway musical.
One of the most moving scenes in the movie comes near the beginning. The protagonist, Jean Valjean, had stolen some food for his sister’s children, was caught and spent 19 years as a galley slave. Inspector Jarvert hands him his yellow document that Valjean was required to carry with him always in order that people should know he was a convict, and warns him that he, Jarvert, would be watching the convict for the rest of his days. It was the law.
After trying unsuccessfully to find a place to sleep the first night due to being a convict, Valjean tried to sleep on the ground. The Monsignor who lived in that town came by and invited Valjean to eat and sleep in his home. During the night, Valjean got up and stole a bag full of silver from the priest. The police inspector, who had Valjean watched, caught him and took him back to the priest’s house. Jarvert told the priest that Valjean insisted that the priest had given him the silver as a gift, and asked the Monsignor if this were true.
Jean Valjean stood there looking as miserable as an ex-con could possibly look. Then the priest looked at him and said that he had given the silver to Valjean. He addressed the convict as brother, and told him that he had forgotten the best. The priest put all of the rest of his silver into Valjean’s bag. He encouraged him to use the silver to start life over, and added that he, the Monsignor, had now bought Valjean’s soul for God.
Do you have any memories of someone offering you grace when you did not deserve it?
If you are in the mood, here are a couple of links where other bloggers talked of grace. Am I Being Soft on Sin by Elizabeth Esther, and a little different presentation here, To Kill What You Hate on Sober Boots.