One of my favorite movies is Les Miserables. It is a powerful story of mercy and renewal. The trajectory of one man’s life was changed by a single act of mercy.
You might remember the scene: Jean Valjean, a former prisoner, was running from the law when a kind priest brings him into his home and feeds him. Later that night Jean Valjean goes back to the home, knocks the priest out and steals his silver. The next day Jean is caught and claims the priest gave him the silver. The authorities bring him back to the priest; but instead of having him thrown into jail, the priest states that he did give him the silver and told the authorities that Jean forgot to take the candlesticks as well.
Jean Valjean is in shock. After the authorities leave, the priest asks him to promise to become a new man. Valjean promises and asks, “Why are you doing this?” The priest states, “With this silver I bought your soul. I have ransomed you from fear and hatred. And now I give you back to God.”
That single act of mercy changed Jean Valjean. He became a man of grace and mercy and blessed people for the rest of his life. There is so much more to this story, but I want to stop and focus on this act of mercy.
Could you have given Jean Valjean the silver? Honestly, I don’t know if I could. My natural bent would be a cry for justice, “Jean Valjean needs to learn a lesson.” He should have been grateful for the food the priest had given him.
The priest had a bigger plan in mind. It wasn’t just about being grateful. He wanted the man’s heart to change. He took a risk and expressed an extraordinary act of mercy. God used this action to change a man’s life.
How could this priest take such a risk? There was no guarantee. And so it goes with mercy. When we extend mercy to others there is no guarantee that their heart will change. But it provides a vehicle through which God can work.
The priest knew that Jesus did the same for him. Titus 3:5 says it is not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to God’s mercy he has saved us. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross changed the priest’s heart. Luke 6:36 reminds us to “Be merciful, just as your heavenly Father is merciful.”
What kind of world would this be, if we strove to be men and women of mercy? We live in a broken world. It is filled with petty, self-centered behavior that leads to all kinds of injustices. But God calls us to be different. Micah 6:8 says it well: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. “
The priest embodied this verse and God changed a man’s life. Mercy is the vehicle to change a heart and allow people, like Jean Valjean, to thrive in a broken world.
Question: How have you experienced mercy? What are some simple ways you can express mercy today? You can leave a comment by clicking here.