The term saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ is used extensively in the New Testament, it helps to explain how God loves us. It means that God offers us immeasurable riches through his compassion and love for us when we accept Jesus into our lives and live by his example.
Les Miserables – an example of God’s grace
I rather think that this was what Victor Hugo was thinking of when he wrote his classic novel Les Miserables; the story of a man, John Valjean, imprisoned for 17 years in France simply because he stole a loaf of bread to feed his hungry family. By the time he is released from prison on parole, he’s transformed from a caring family man into a hardened, ex-convict, an embittered person with no hope for the future.
After being refused accommodation by an innkeeper on a rainy evening, Valjean knocks on the door of a church rectory and asks for a night’s lodging. The resident Bishop opens up his home, giving him a warm meal and offering a comfortable bed and pillow for the night.
Valjean, however, isn’t used to such displays of kindness or of showing any gratitude. He steals the sacramental silver plates and chalice and runs off with them in the middle of the night. In the morning, the police catch him with the church’s silver and bring him back to the Bishop for questioning. Valjean is terrified as he knows that he will be permanently incarcerated if he is convicted of theft a second time.
The police tell the Bishop that the prisoner told them he gave the silver to him as a gift. The Bishop, most unexpectedly, says, yes, I did, I also gave him the silver candlesticks, but he seems to have left those behind.
As the police leave, satisfied that no crime has been committed, Valjean is completely and utterly astonished at this unwarranted kindness.
Then the Bishop retrieves two silver candlesticks, the only remaining property of value he owns, and hands them to Valjean. He challenges him to use the silver to make himself a new man, and Valjean does just that.
The Bishop offered something that was not deserved. He could have quite as easily asked for justice and had Valjean sent back to jail. But he had compassion for Valjean and not only offered mercy but abundant gifts, everything he had, in fact.
The novel Les Miserables offers an excellent example of what God’s grace looks like if we turn to him in faith and humility.
However bad our sins, God still offers us his abundant love, peace and grace, and a hope of life eternal. These gifts develop slowly over a lifetime as we follow the example that Jesus offered.
None of us is perfect. Perhaps we could think of anything we might have done wrong and pray to God for His forgiveness and grace today.
The three articles below in this series offer examples of the ways in which God loves us: