As I mentioned in an earlier post, I love to go to the movies and reflect on the story being told and think about faith and life. Jesus told parables (short stories) and would then made a faith application to those stories. So in that tradition and example of Jesus I like to reflect on what the story teaches me about God.
Last week I was truly blessed to finally see Les Misérables, which is an amazing story of transformation, forgiveness and grace. In the story, we meet up with Jean Valjean as he is being released from prison having spent time in prison for stealing bread to feed his sister’s children during a time of want. As a free man he resolves to do good in life but the day-to-day circumstances does not make his desire easy to accomplish. Seeking help to live a good life he goes to the church and there he enters a place of welcome, hospitality and generosity and grace. But then, afraid of what tomorrow may bring (not trusting God) he steals some silver from the rectory. The police find him with the silver and they bring him back to the rectory giving the bishop opportunity to press charges against this thief – but rather the bishop forgives, shows mercy and tells Jean Valjean that his life has purpose and sends him freely on his way. Jean Valjean’s life is emboldened and transformed by that kindness and the wisdom of the bishop and through that act and with God’s help his life is transformed.
But there is the Police Inspector, Javert, who knows about Valjean’s past and holds it over him his entire life. In fact he openly vows to expose Jean Valjean for who he is. There is a tension through the entire story about forgiveness and living as a fraud. Even in the last moments of his life Jean Valjean is on the run and not entirely sure of grace and forgiveness. It was sad to see this man question himself his entire life.
So this begs the question: Can we ever be sure that God has forgiven us - or is God like the Inspector that pursues us only to expose us?
The answer is Yes, most certainly we can be sure of God’s forgiveness. Forgiveness is God’s free gift to us, and ought to be the source of peace and joy in our life. Scripture is clear that for the believers there is no condemnation. (Romans 8:1) God has forgiven and has set us free from our past. We are made a new creations - and we are called to live a life worthy of our redemption, it is the fruit of a redemption that is already complete by what God has done for us in Christ.
As a pastor for 30 years I have spoken to many people about the forgiveness of sins and many will tell me that they believe God can forgive others but not them. It is as if they are living their life looking over their shoulder for Javert to expose their past to the world. No, Romans 8:1 is clear. There is no condemnation!
None of us has perfectly kept God’s law – all of us have fallen short. But for those who believe know that it was on the cross 2000 years ago that Jesus took our sin on Himself and gave us his righteousness (I Corinthian 5:21) We will stand before God one day and give an account for our lives, but as Christians the outcome and our eternal destiny is assured through the life of Jesus, not our own. As Christians we will stand before God fully righteous because we are in Christ, in Him we have already been forgiven. Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God.