Issues of Grace in Les Miserables (preparing a lesson)

Hey folks. Hope this finds you all well.

I am facillitating a discussion group with the youth at my church that is based on biblical principles found in movies. We watch all or part of a movie and discuss the relevant scriptural issues we find.

This week’s movie is a softball. We watched Les Mis last Sunday night (the one from a few years ago with Liam Neeson) and this week we will discuss it.

The obvious theme is Grace shown by the Bishop to Valjean and how Valjean shared that grace, contrasted to Javert’s being a slave to the law, and showing no grace.

Does anyone out there have any specific examples that you think would resonate with teens? I have a number of ideas, but I don’t want to cloud the brain trust with them just yet.

Also, does anyone know of any good resources for facillitating this kind of class? Scriptural concepts in modern film?


The book, Les Miserables, is a masterpiece. I haven’t seen the movie. Great question!

What might work with teens is stressing the notion of forgiveness. The Bishop forgave Valjean for his theft. He was absolved.

Ask the teens to think about things they have done that they know were wrong, that they feel bad about. Have you lied to your best friend? Did you fail to stick up for your friend when others were putting her down and she wasn’t there? Did you steal something once - does it still bother you?

Then ask them to imagine that they were forgiven for the thing they did. Forgiven. Absolved. For no reason other than love. What a flood of joy that would be! That’s the gift of God’s grace.

And what about the effect that forgiveness has on the person who does the forgiving?

I met a young woman once who chose a different question to ask the strangers that she met over the course of a year. The question for that year was What is grace?

It was certainly more complex than I would have thought.

Hey! Your class sound really interesting!

Can I sit in?

There’s a great web site that does a good job extracting spiritual principles from popular movies, Geared towards teens. Though I’m sure they didn’t review “les Meeeeez” (DON’T call it that unless you WANT to be dorkily “with it”).

Hope you figure out a way to ask a few questions and then listen.

How about the constant grace/forgiveness Valjean shows Javert throughout the story (aside from smacking him around some). He could easily have killed him a number of times, but right up to the end, he didn’t.

Hey that site looks like it is full of good stuff! Thanks!

No, wrong. Hugo wrote that book as a critic to the legal point of view in those times that can be described with the phrase “once a criminal always a criminal”.
Valjean stole bread and later stole money from a little boy, the Bishop teaches him that the above axiom isn’t true. He can change… an so he does.
So, in my opinion, that book theme is redemption.

OK- now I have a redemption vs. grace discussion in my own head. There may be a conversation in the meeting of these two ideas.

I am about to watch the movie again, and will keep your suggestions in mind.

Also, what about the grace that Valjean shows to Marius, as he risks his own life to save the boy, for the sake of his daughter?

Oh, and you’re wrong up top. Javert DOES show grace when he lets Valjean go to get Marius some help. Which is what causes the eventual break in Javert.

Ah- another good point!