Les Mis is the latest musical to hit the big screen. It’s the masterful and timeless story of two men who picture the power of law and grace. Javert is a prison guard turned policeman, who is driven to enforce the law. His sites are set on one man, Jean Valjean, who has more than served his time for a petty crime he committed. Javert is insistent on reminding Jean Valjean that he is a thief and will always be a thief.
Jean Valjean does break the law, but also experiences great grace from a caring, elderly bishop. He discovers a love he had never known. He finds that in receiving the forgiveness offered to him, he is made into something he had never been before: free! He lives with a passion to extend the grace he has received to others.
More than just a public servant of the law, Javert has established his identity as a keeper of the law. He is a man driven to make sure justice is executed. He has measured himself by his ability to know what is right and wrong, and live by that code. Disobedience brings consequences. Obedience brings favor. There is no room for mercy, no room for grace, no room for love. His identity is in the law.
(Spoiler alert) Javert’s identity with the law brings death.
Man was not created to find his purpose, drive, and identity in law. The early pages of Scripture record that Adam and Eve were placed in a garden that had all that they could ever want and dream of. It was a place of beauty, wonder, and life. They were given full freedom to eat with delight. They even had full and free access to the most wondrous of all trees – the tree of life! This was how they were invited to live! They were made in the image of God and had full access to Him and full freedom to enjoy all that He had given!
There was also another tree in the garden.
One tree was to be off limits to the couple as they lived in paradise. One tree was not to be their source of life. It was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If someone ate of this tree it would give them full knowledge of all things good and all things evil. It would give them awareness of the fullest extent of things “thou shalt not” do and things “thou shalt do” in order to measure up.
This was never to be the source of life for man.
The identity of man and his relationship to God was never to be based on his ability to know and do what right and not do what was wrong. Man was to enjoy God and by receiving all that He had and nothing more. Eating from the tree of knowledge and evil would bring about certain dramatic and eternal change. God said to not eat from this tree because in the day that they did, they would die. Everything would change. They would no longer see themselves the same. They would no longer see God the same. All things would change.
Man was never to find his identity in the law.
As we now know, Adam and Eve did eat from the tree. Death did come. All things did change. And every person born after them is still affected. Even today, we are born with a DNA twisted by the knowledge of good and evil. We measure ourselves by our performance. We define ourselves by our accomplishments. We demand what we think we deserve. We do in order to get. We reward those who do good for us. We punish those who hurt us. We don’t do well with mercy, grace, and forgiveness. And just as it did in the garden, finding our identity in the knowledge of what is good brings death.
It brings death to our relationships. It brings death to our dreams. It brings death to our hearts.
Into the devastation steps Jesus. He comes restore what was lost. He comes to fulfill the law so that we could be free from its guilty sentence. He comes to fulfill it so that we would be free from its command. He comes to forgive and declare righteous. Those who eat from what He gives receive new life! Something more wondrous than the law springs to life in their hearts. In those who receive the greatness of His grace completely by faith, love is awakened!
They are filled with gratefulness to God! They love others out of the love they have received! They experience a freedom they have never known! They give what is given to them!
They become like Jean Valjean.
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