To Love Another Person Is to See The Face of God
By Marty Norman –
Recently I saw a student production of Les Miserable at the local community theatre in For Worth, Texas. All I have to say is wow, the power of this production! And these were high school students. As surely as I stand, I testify that their voices rivaled those of Broadway stars. It was amazing.
A long time has passed since I last saw the production. I had forgotten the depth of the story, how pertinent and timely its message is for today.
The story takes place in France in the late 1770s, during the time of the French Revolution. The plot revolves around a number of mini-plots with the common denominator the transforming power of love.
Love permeates everything: the love of a mother for a child, a man for a woman, a man for his God and a man for his country. Sound familiar? Almost every song or conversation was about God, prayer, forgiveness, redemption, salvation or un-forgiveness.
Biblical, isn’t it?
What struck me most was the contrast between the two main characters, Jean Val Jean and Javert. If I didn’t know better I would have thought, in a different time and place, that these two could have been Peter and Judas or at least representatives thereof. In addition, they both were symbolic of everyman, for there isn’t a man or woman who, when he comes to the end of his life, doesn’t have to make the same choice as they made: to choose God and his plan for salvation or eternal damnation.
This contrast between light and dark was highlighted in song and drama. The first character, Jean Val Jean, was a thief, clearly a sinner, and he knew it. In the middle of his sin he came face to face with a priest who, acting as the hands and mouth of Jesus, poured out unconditional love in the midst of sin. This encounter was life-changing, forcing him to take a deep look at himself. In so doing he recognized his sin and cried out to God for forgiveness. He then turned his life around, experiencing a metanoia not unlike Paul’s on the road to Damascus. He then dedicated his life to serving God and his fellow man. Sounds like a Peter to me.
The second man was also a sinner. Javert, a policeman, spent his entire life following the law. But his eyes and ears were closed to truth. Only when faced with the truth of himself did he make a choice. Encountering the unconditional love and self-sacrifice of Jean Val Jean, his large ego and even larger pride would not let him receive the forgiveness offered. He commits suicide rather than face the truth about himself, thus choosing eternal damnation and separation from God. Sounds like a repeat of the Judas story, doesn’t it?
So what is the lesson learned?
I believe it is more a question than a lesson. The question being, which one are you? A Judas or Peter? A Jean Val Jean or Javert?
As believers most of us are Peters. As a Peter, our job is to be aware of the many Judas’ and Javerts that are out there. Knowing their plot and their end, we should all be spurred to give a helping hand, one that offers the transforming power of a loving father who reaches down from heaven through the gift of his Son, to meet each of us in the middle of our sin and reconcile us to himself.
Just like Les Miserables, this Jesus play has a powerful ending too. No longer miserable, we, His people, are now joyous as we join the cast of thousands who enter into the great drama of heaven, receiving the applause, taking curtain calls, and accepting bouquets of roses as we choose the kingdom of light over the kingdom of darkness.
And there’s no better production than that, student or otherwise!