A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. Proverbs 25:11
You may not know the name Monseigneur Myriel, the Bishop of Digne, but you very likely know his story. In Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables he is the humble bishop who changes the course of history through one act of amazing grace. Jean Valjean comes to him as a broken man, carrying the heavy chains of his criminal past. To make matters worse he steals from the bishopric only to be caught and brought back before the man of God with enough evidence to put him away for life. The humble Bishop of Digne not only dismisses the charges, but gives to Valjean the rest of the silver, “he forgot.” What follows is a beautiful example of the power of grace and forgiveness in the life of a person enslaved by guilt and sin. The closing words of the song that the Bishop sings to Jean is this, “you must use this precious silver to become an honest man… for I have bought your soul for God.” You likely know the rest of the story.
We have talked a lot on this one hundred-day journey about experiencing the true freedom that God wishes for all of his children. That experience is so powerfully demonstrated in the life of Jean Valjean. What we must not miss in this story, however, is the joy and the freedom with which the Bishop set him free. Had the enemy been able to enslave the Monseigneur with regard to possessions, fear, resentment, pride or self-righteousness, the outcome would have been dramatically different. But exactly when Valjean needed to be released from all that oppressed him, God found a man who was engaged in the battle and prepared for the job.
In our fourth trek we prayed for God to set us free in relationship to our image, our self-identity. We sought the freedom that comes from finding our only true identity in Jesus Christ. We set aside the need to prop up our own reputation and we refused the allure of praise and plaudits. In doing so, I pray you sensed the freedom of the follower of Christ who seeks only the applause of nail-scarred hands.
If you did, now is your time to give it away. Today your life will intersect with countless people who carry on their spirits the weight of past sins and the burden of self-incrimination and doubt. Will you be the ‘bishop’ to those people – used by God to pronounce a word of mercy, an act of grace, a pronouncement of freedom? You will need to look for it, seek after it and pray for it. You will need eyes of compassion and the mind of Christ, or these opportunities will pass you by without you even knowing it. But if you let God open your eyes and allow the Holy Spirit to quicken your spirit, you can be used by God as a powerful instrument of freedom and hope. That is the purpose of this entire one hundred day journey to freedom. Not just that we might be set free, but that we might be part of the army of God to proclaim freedom to the captives wherever we go. May God equip you for such a high and holy calling.
I want to send you back to Les Miserables in this action step. If you have the movie or the score, watch or listen to that part again. Be especially mindful of the words and the expression on the faces. Even better, get a copy of Hugo’s book and read the entire section that tells this story. Then picture yourself as that humble bishop. Remember, he did nothing more than let the love and mercy of Christ flow through him. That is all God asks of us. How powerfully would such a word of grace impact the life of someone you know, someone with whom you work, perhaps someone in your own home? Will you pray that God would use you in such a powerful way through such a simple, humble act?
Gracious and merciful God, I am overwhelmed by the thought that you could use me to bring healing and hope into the lives of others. I still feel so broken myself. But I trust you and I am willing to be your person in the lives of the people around me. So I submit myself to you. I don’t have the words or the courage for this. Yet I believe that you can work through me, and so in faith I ask you to prepare me for this work. Then, Lord, open my eyes that I may see the need that is around me. Slow the pace of my life so that I may hear the cries for help that I so often miss. And when I have the opportunity, give me the words to say, the compassion to act and the heart to believe. Use me, Lord, as you see fit. In Jesus’ precious name. Amen.