Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy…The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly. ~ 1 Timothy 1:13-14
One of the classic tales in all of literature is Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo. If you’ve read the book, or seen the musical, or seen the movie, there is a moment you quickly do not forget. The moment involves the main character, a man by the name of Jean Valjean.
The story is set in France in the early 1800’s. Jean Valjean has just gotten out of prison, and no one wants to help him in any way. Finally, however, he finds refuge with an elderly bishop, who happily gives him shelter and food. But Valjean’s old habits get the better of him, and during the night he fills a bag with the bishop’s silver and runs away.
Next morning, three policemen pound on the bishop’s door. They’ve caught Valjean with the bishop’s silver. They now have cause to lock him up for life. But the bishop responds in a surprising way. “So here you are!” he cries to Valjean. “I’m delighted to see you. Had you forgotten I gave you the candlesticks as well?”
The policemen are speechless. And so is Valjean. The officers have no choice but to release him and walk away. This single act of mercy spares him from a lifetime in prison. And it also changes his life.
Les Miserables, of course, is only a story. But God’s mercy for you and me in Jesus Christ is not. The apostle Paul openly confessed that, apart from Christ, he had been “a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man.” Then God’s mercy stepped in. By the power of the gospel, the Holy Spirit created within Paul the miracle of faith in Jesus as his Savior. That act of mercy spared Paul from a lifetime of darkness. And it changed his whole outlook on life.
You and I can see ourselves in Jean Valjean. And we can see ourselves in Paul. Alone, you and I are lost. But God’s mercy has intervened. And God’s mercy is here because of what his Son has already done on our behalf to wash us clean.
The mercy of God. The pure, simple, sweet mercy of God in Jesus. Paul never forgot it. Nor can you and I.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, your mercy has rescued us from a life of darkness and despair. You have done this through faith in your Son. Move us to bask in this always. Amen.