Repost – God Through the Lens of Les Mis

Queens Theatre, 51 Shaftesbury Avenue, London,...

Come with me
Where chains will never bind you
All your grief at last at last behind you
Lord in heaven, look down on him in mercy!
Forgive me all my trustpasses
and take me to your glory
Take my hand, and lead me to salvation
Take my love, for love is everlasting
And remember the truth that once was spoken
To love another person is to see the face of God!”

Of all the musicals on ever earth, Les Miserables is my favorite. From the opening chord of the orchestra to the ending ensemble lines of “Will you join in our crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me? Somewhere beyond the barricade is there a world you long to see?Do you hear the people sing? Say do you hear the distant drums? It is the future that they bring when tomorrow comes!” I am in another realm, a place where right trumps wrong and grace and mercy triumph over vengeance.

For those who don’t know the story, Les Mis takes place in the 19th century in pre-revolutionary France. A prisoner by the name of Jean Valjean, but better known by his number 24601, is granted parole after 19 years of imprisonment. He was initially given 5 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread for a starving child (his sister’s child) but because of many attempts to escape ended up being there for 19. Seen as a pariah because of his prison past, he struggles to find work or food.  He is ultimately taken in by a man of the cloth, the Bishop of Digne,  and given food and lodging. He returns this kindness by stealing the silverware in the middle of the night, is caught by police and taken to be accused by the clergy. Instead of accusations, he is vindicated as  the Bishop claims they were given to Valjean as a gift and wonders aloud to Jean Valjean’s captors why he left the silver candlesticks in ‘his haste’ .  This act of grace is given with a challenge by the clergyman to ‘Become an honest man‘. He journeys through his life doing just that, though continuously haunted by his past in the form of a police inspector named Javert.

The contrast of the two men is clear as one is consumed with the need for justice and retribution and the other attempts to live out his life in grace but secrecy. Like all good stories there is the protagonist, a conflict, and a critical climax that I will not spoil for those who have not yet seen the show.

This year Tom Hooper, director of The King’s Speech, winner of four Oscars, takes Les Mis to the big screen. I had the pleasure of seeing it last night – and though I will always prefer the live performance, I loved the show. Anne Hathaway as Fantine brings on tears as she struggles to survive on the streets of Paris; Eponine’s poignant “A Little Fall of Rain” catches in your throat; and you want to get up and wave a flag during “Red – the blood of angry men, Black – the dark of ages past”.  All and all, it’s a great show — the next best thing to seeing it live.

With great theology and irresistible truths it feels like a holy experience. 

More and more I am grateful for the compelling lessons I learn of God and Grace, Mercy and Justice from the world around me, whether it be award-winning musicals or encounters on a crowded, dirty street.These glimpses of the character of God move me from wanting to know ‘of’ God, to wanting a relationship with God himself, walking in faith that the words “Come with me, Where chains will never bind you. All your grief at last at last behind you” will at some point be sung to me.

15 thoughts on “Repost – God Through the Lens of Les Mis

  1. Les Mis is such a meaningful musical to me. It is one of the two #1 favorite musicals of my life. Wicked is still tied with Wicked. Wicked sparked the love while Les MIs turned my love of musicals into a passion.

    Les Mis showed me a side of musicals I always thought impossible. It showed me that musicals can be tragic and heartbreaking. It taught me that heartbreak is an emotion in the world of musicals. It showed me an emotional capability that I always thought was impossible. I am obsessed with Les Mis and still passionate about it. My first full expense with Les Mis was the movie adaptation and later I saw the musical four times in the theatre, which was three times at my community college and one time in London. Now it is about to tour the US again and I hope my parents take me and the coincidence with that is that it is coming in December, which is almost exactly five years since I first experienced the movie.

    If you love Les Mis, I suggest you check out my blog. If you look through it, Les Mis will be mentioned a lot.


  2. Marylin, I agree though I also prefer the life show, Jacqueline and I were moved by the cinematic experience. One can see Les Miserable over and over and it evokes a deep appreciation for our need of God’s grace. My father passed this summer, and I pray that he experiences God’s peace “Come with me, Where chains will never bind you. All your grief at last at last behind you”. Petra


    1. I didn’t know that your father passed this summer….while Jacqueline was in Germany? And I agree – I could see Les Mis every year and never grow tired of the messages of mercy and grace.


  3. My boyfriend and I are SO excited for this film – I think it’s coming over here in January, and reading this post has made me all excited all over again. I have seen the show twice in the West End in London, and I sobbed both times – for me, “I Dreamed A Dream” is musical perfection.


    1. It’s so good to hear from you!! I, like you, saw the show twice in the West End as well and while I think you may be disappointed with Javert’s performance of Stars I think you’ll love the rest. Please do let me know. Also I expect a great review on your blog.

      Marilyn Gardner Sent from my iPhone


  4. I’m looking forward to seeing it! Isn’t it incredible that this story of grace is written by a Frenchman with the background of the revolution which sparked the separation of church and state in France? When I lived there there was a real sense of the church (and anyone Christian) being looked down on and mocked, yet some incredibly profound godly truths have come from French philosophers and scientists over the ages.


    1. So interesting Sophie — and how the clergy portrayed really was a man of God, exhibiting mercy and grace along with a call to leave the past. I look forward to hearing your thoughts after seeing. I will reiterate that there really is nothing like seeing the Broadway musical version. But if you take that factor out I think it’s a worthy investment!


  5. Though the music is spell-binding, it’s that message of love and mercy that makes us cry every time we see it live. We’re bringing a box of tissue to the theater when we watch it on Saturday. We already know we’ll be teary-eyed through the entire show.


    1. Wise plan. And I so agree. Such grace. Such mercy. I remember the very first time I saw it – it was in London and I could hardly speak afterwards. Enjoy and I’d love to hear what you think about it.


  6. Okay. Now I am going to have to go see the movie. I was resisting.

    Here’s what strikes me about Les Mis: The “righteous one” (Javert) is actually the villan; the ‘sinner’ (Valjean) is actually the righteous one.

    Sometimes in our great zeal we forget God’s judgment is swallowed by mercy; and God’s wrath is wrapped in hesed – steadfast love.

    Thanks be to God!


    1. Beautifully put. So now I’m a bit nervous that you won’t like so let me reiterate– nothing can compare to the Broadway show. But…. To me it was a worthwhile investment and time well spent.


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