“It is Your Soul I Buy From You.”


“Now,” said the Bishop, “go in peace. By the way, when you return, my friend, it is not necessary to pass through the garden. You can always enter and depart through the street door. It is never fastened with anything but a latch, either by day or by night.”

ValJean, the main character of Victor Hugo’s epic tale of judgment and redemption, Les Miserables, is a convict who has served 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread. Though he has paid heavily for his crime, he continues to suffer under the heavy weight of society’s ruthless prejudice, even after his release. In a moment of desperation, he throws himself upon the good graces of Monsieur Bienvenue, a humble and good man of the cloth.

After having supped at the bishop’s table and slept in the bishop’s guest room, the demon of injustice overtakes the convict in the night; ValJean decides to rob the bishop of one of two items the bishop still has of value–the silverware. The bishop has already given everything else of value, including his palace, to the poor. He does not even have a lock on the front door for security.

Following his theft, ValJean is taken into custody and brought to the bishop for accusation. The bishop, more concerned with the state of ValJean’s soul than the theft of his silverware, tells the gendarmes that ValJean took the silverware with his blessing. His generosity extends to offering ValJean the silver candlesticks as well. [Matthew 5:40] As the police leave, the bishop has a private word with ValJean:

The Bishop drew near to him, and said in a low voice:— “Do not forget, never forget, that you have promised to use this money in becoming an honest man.”

Jean Valjean, who had no recollection of ever having promised anything, remained speechless.

The Bishop had emphasized the words when he uttered them. He resumed with solemnity:— “Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I buy from you; I withdraw it from black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God.”

What a beautiful picture of grace and redemption. God does not only offer us the silverware, but the candlesticks too, that there may be no impediment to our returning to his side through the front door whenever we choose. He has not made us his into guilty thieves, taking things to which we have no right; but, he has made us his children. Through Christ, there is no barrier–no lock on the front door–to prevent our coming into His Presence. Not only that, but in His buying back our soul from the certainty of hell, we experience the removal of guilt, anger and frustration, and a resurrection of our soul through the promise of hope. God tells us to “Go and sin no more.” [John 8:11] We can do that because we have a new spirit.

“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” [Philippians 3:8-11]

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