The bishop calls off those who would condemn and demand punishment for Jean under the law. These same words have been spoken over me by the Son.
This chapter commissions Jean Valjean in his redemption for transformed life, a life of simple and single purpose with a very specific mission – although he would start with years of broad band ministry in the workplace to lay the foundation.
John Donne in Holy Sonnet 15: “His stolen stuff sold, must lose or buy it again, The Sun of glory came down, and was slain, Us whom He had made and Satan stole, to unbind.”
“It is your soul that I am buying” the bishop instructs. Jean Valjean is an object of grace without much to say and without understanding more than that he is now loved and free but “had no recollection of that promise.” Such a cool way to balance a decision theology with regeneration. Jean Valjean was told that the covenant was bilateral, even though it was a unilateral transaction – and evidently a true transformation. So the child with the plastic lawn mower following his Abba, who is really mowing the grass and loving father/son time, makes the child feel that he has a working role so that he will be a full relational participant.
There is a more subtle theme that pricks me this morning in the attitude of the bishop that the silver does not belong to him. For he could have found a middle ground that would be condemning of Jean Valjean – that he (the bishop) was entrusted as steward of the silver and was responsible for appropriating them for God. He could have accused Jean Valjean of stealing from God. But instead, his was an attitude of trust.
Here are some things that apply to me now, where something is taken and I react as owner.
1. Do I own the country? A political comment that misrepresents my position, and I get angry and act with sarcasm – feeling justified.
2. Do I own the road? A car on the interstate rides slowly in the left lane, I pass on the right, and the car speeds up to disallow the pass, and I get angry and utter the word “jerk” – feeling good that I have categorized the other driver as an idiot.
3. Do I own my own soul? Someone makes a comment about me that is negative but misrepresents reality as I see it, and I get angry focusing on the infraction against truth – feeling justified that I have categorized the other person as irrational.
Let me learn to walk in faith. I confess that I do not own the country, the road, or even my own soul and body. Nor would it do anyone any good if I did. I trust in the Lord who made Heaven and Earth, for He is active today – using me despite my perceptions and making me feel like I am a contributor in the temporal work as a deceit (?) to engage with me in eternal relational joy.