A little while back, Jan and I went with some of our church family to see the movie, Les Miserables. We thoroughly enjoyed it. It's one of those movies you want to see on the big screen and then want to see again on DVD because the story is so good. A lot has been said and written about the theme of grace vs. law and the triumph of grace. The movie was saturated with grace, and the embodiment of grace in Jean Valjean and law in Javert was thought provoking and emotion producing.There were a lot of tissues used, and hopefully a lot of thinking about God's grace. My thoughts after the film, while still including grace, were a bit different than others that I heard.
There were many scenes in the film that made folks cry, and I choked up many of those times myself. However, what brought me to tears was the scene near the end when Javert dove off the bridge, finally holding on to law all the way to death and rejecting the grace that was offered. Now, keep in mind that I had not read the novel or seen any of the stage or film productions. In my wild-eyed optimism, I hoped that Javert would see the light and be transformed by grace as Jean Valjean was. It broke my heart.
My heart still breaks when I think about the many people who reject a grace that gives life and cling to law which brings death. Some don't know any better, having been raised in religions that are all about human effort. I would include the American religion of pull yourself up by your own bootstraps self-sufficiency. Many however, should know better. There are multitudes of churches and organizations that will say they are all about grace but then proclaim rules to follow to be "right with God," or any number of steps to be a better whatever. This includes those "ministries" who proclaim grace but then tell you what to do to have any number of "blessings" in your life.
If those things worked, churches would be full of perfect, completely fulfilled and whole people. Do you know any of those? I don't. Law doesn't work to bring life, whether it's religious commands or simple human effort to get better. Our effort, whether it's obeying regulations, following steps, or trying to have more faith, will not change us. It is only God's grace that transforms us, making us into people who show love to others, who trust God, and who sometimes do the right thing. This comes about because the Spirit of the living God dwells in us and changes us from the inside out. We no longer live by law, but we live by grace, out of a heart consumed with love for our Father because he loves us with an unchangeable, everlasting love.
Let us reject law, with its striving and death. Let us embrace God's grace, which does what we could never do and transforms us into the new creation God means for us to be.