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December 27, 2012
Column # 1,635
“I Have Bought Your Soul For God”
By Mike McManus

Have you ever seen a movie in which the lead character is transformed from being despicable to being Christ-like – self-sacrificing to the point of giving his life for others?

That’s the plot of “Les Miserables,” a powerful, lavishly shot new film and a deeply moving musical that opened on Christmas Day. Critics predict it’s sure to garner multiple Oscar nominations.

Hugh Jackman is Jean Valjean, a prisoner arrested for stealing a loaf of bread, who is released on parole after 19 years on a chain gang. He must show papers that identify himself as an ex-convict. So he can’t get work. Shivering in a church doorway, he’s invited by a bishop to his home for dinner, a glass of wine and sleep in a comfortable bed – undreamed of luxuries.

Yet the embittered Valjean gets up early, steals silver chalices and plates but is caught by police who bring him back to the bishop, ready to send him back to the galleys. “It is then that Valjean gets his first glimpse of heaven’s grace. Of God’s infinite mercy even in the face of sickening sin,” writes Focus on the Family.

The bishop says that he freely gave the silver to the ex-convict. “In fact, you forgot the most valuable pieces,” he exclaims, shoving two silver candlesticks into his sack, whispering in his ear, “You must use this silver to become an honest man. God has raised you out of darkness. I have bought your soul for God!”

Later Valjean falls on his knees before a church altar, singing, “Sweet Jesus, what have I done? Become a thief in the night…Have I fallen so far? Yet why did I allow that man to touch my soul and teach me love? My life he claims for God above. Can such things be?”

He rips up his parole papers, and uses the silver to build a business to give jobs to poor women. One of his workers, Fantine (Anne Hathaway), is not liked by the other women. They tell a foreman she had a baby out-of-wedlock. Fantine had resisted his advances, and was fired.

To support her daughter, Fantine sells all she has, her long hair, and then her teeth. Finally she becomes a prostitute. Utterly degraded by the experience, she sings plaintively, “There was a time when men were kind, when love was blind and the world was a song. Then it all went wrong.”

Fantine becomes very ill. Valjean hears what happened to his former employee, rescues her and takes her to the hospital. Fantine tells him, “Good monsieur, you come from God in heaven.” He promises the dying woman that he will find and care for her daughter, Cosette.

He does so by paying her corrupt caretakers a huge sum, but flees to Paris to escape a policeman named Javert (Russell Crowe) who has been looking for the parole jumper. Nine years later, Cosette is a beautiful young woman who falls in love with Marius, a student leader of a street revolution. Valjean realizes his “daughter” is growing up quickly, and first tries to keep her away from the revolutionaries who pile furniture in the streets to block off the troops.

Javert disguises himself as a revolutionary, learns of their plans, and tells the troops to bring out cannons. But when he returns to tell the revolutionaries the troops will not attack until dawn – he is recognized by a 12-year-old as a traitor. Valjean shows up looking for Marius, and offers to take care of Javert.

He privately corners the man bound with ropes, pulls out a knife, but cuts the ropes rather than stabbing him, setting him free. He fires a shot, so the revolutionaries will think he killed the enemy.

Javert sings, “Vengeance was his and he gave me back my life. Damned if I will live in the debt of a thief,” and commits suicide.

Within hours, the troops fire cannons and storm the revolutionaries, seriously wounding Marius. Valjean carries the unconscious young man through Paris sewers, eventually bringing him home where Cosette nurses him back to health.

On their wedding day, they learn Valjean is very ill. When he sees them, he sings, “Now I can die in peace for now my life is blessed…Your mother gave her life for you, then gave you to my keeping.”

Hollywood films are usually about sex kittens and pointless violence. This movie is about the true meaning of life and redemption – how unearned compassion by the bishop sparked a life of love that saved lives.

The movie demonstrates what Paul wrote the Colossians (1:27): “This is the secret. Christ lives in you.”

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