Certainly, a doctor would have seen in Jean Valjean an incurable misery; he would perhaps have pitied this man sickened by the law, but he would not even have attempted a cure; he would have turned from the sight of the caverns glimpsed in that soul; and, like Dante at the gate of Hell, he would have erased from that existence the word that the finger of God has nonetheless written on the brow of everyone- Hope!
~from Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! ~2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)
Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and Him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with Himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what He is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ Himself now: Become friends with God; He’s already a friend with you.
~2 Corinthians 5:17-20 (Message)
God, through Christ, was pleased to “reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.”
~Colossians 1:20, NIV
When I saw the play Les Misérables in London, it instantly replaced Phantom of the Opera as my favorite musical. I have been slowly making my way through Victor Hugo’s novel this past year. And I have watched several movie versions of this story, but have always been disappointed that the powerful songs from the play were left out. So I greatly enjoyed the movie that is now in theatres.
Do not be confused by the somber title “Les Misérables;” this work paints hope in the world- hope that through faith in God expressed in loving (albeit often difficult and sacrificial) actions towards others, a person can change and rise above their past, the expectations of others, and the oppressive, entrapping systems of society.
A modern day example: in Uganda, the Street Child Project, along with other organizations such as the Sanctuary, Emmanuel House, and C.R.O., work with street children as rehabilitation homes and drop-in centers. These are the children that people in Ugandan society see as less than nothing, as unchangeable, hopeless cases. These are children who are caught in systems that work against them- the lack of fidelity and compassion of many step-parents towards their step-children leading to child labor, child abuse, and even death threats and attempted murder; greed tied to land possession that leads to terrible violence in a family after divorce or when the death of a father leaves a young male heir; polygamy spreading material resources so thin among a family that poverty pushes the children out and onto the streets; children orphaned due to diseases like AIDS or maternal mortality stemming from a lack of education, sanitation, or proper medical care.
The stories in Les Misérables deeply impact people (the theatre I was in burst into applause at the end of the film) because they parallel the work that God is doing in the world- the work of redemption (a holistic redemption that brings peace to every area of brokenness- between humanity and God, between humanity and the environment/earth, and in human relationships~ see Colossians 1:20).
God beautifully invites us to join Him in the work of redemption, spreading hope, truth, joy and love in the world. I went to Uganda for two months to do my small part of the work that many people are a part of. This may be my only trip to Africa, but I will never regret following what I believe to be God’s voice in my life- an unexpected tug on my heart calling me to a country I never expected to visit. I find that even if you only have five minutes to spend with someone- or even a few seconds give them a smile, you can choose to love them in that short time, and that love is not wasted in God’s eternal perspective.
I now have ten stories of hope- ten names to pray for as they heal from hard pasts- ten boys that I believe can change and break free from the systems and lies that used to trap them. For in Christ, they are a new creation. The old has gone and the new has come! These boys who used to be alone and miserable, who have been mistreated and have made their fair share of mistakes, now have people who believe in them and love them unconditionally. And more importantly, they know that they have a God who loves them so enormously that He has given His own life for them, and His Spirit working in them can change them from thieves and outcasts to leaders and fathers and godly men in their community.
May you pray for these boys today- for their protection from lies and for their ongoing healing from their past and present hurts. May you pray for those children still on the streets around the world- that those who are lonely would be set in families and know they are loved. May you choose to believe in someone in your life, and to faithfully love them, even when their change is terribly slow or hard to see. May you have the creativity and courage to love and forgive, in spite of what others expect you to say or do, or how small your actions seem. May you know the love and power of God in your own life and your own past, present and future.