Main Point: Even though forgiving and loving an enemy is extremely difficult, it’s commanded by Christ.
The Video Clip: Why are you doing this?
Les Misérables (The Miserable) is a French story about Jean Valjean (Liam Neeson) overcoming his crooked past in spite of the efforts of a determined police inspector (Geoffrey Rush) who is holding Valjean’s crimes against him. It’s a great movie about overcoming inner turmoil and living a completely transformed life. The scene that will be used for the discussion is actually the opening scene of the movie, where viewers get the background on Valjean’s thievery and evil.
Introducing the Video:
Jean Valjean has just been released from prison and is on parole in need of food and a place to sleep. He has nothing to his name other than the clothes on his back. He meets a bishop that takes him in and offers him food and shelter, but instead of being grateful, Valjean actually steals from them and physically attacks the bishop. But that’s not the most interesting part of this clip. The most intriguing part of this clip is the bishop’s response to Valjean’s vindictiveness. Let’s check it out.
OPTIONAL: If you have the time, you can simply start the movie at the very beginning of the film because the desired scene is only three minutes into the movie, or you can start the clip at 3 minutes and 26 seconds (in Chapter 2). Another option is that this clip is available to download and purchase from WingClips.
- (The scene opens with the Bishop sitting at his desk while Madam Gilot is working at the dinner table. There is a knock on the front door.)
Bishop: Who can that be?
Valjean: Do you have any food you can spare?
Bishop: Come in.
Valjean: Look! I’m a convict. My name is Jean Valjean. I’ve served 19 years hard labor. They let me out 4 days ago. I’m on parole. I have to go all the way to Dijon to report on Monday, or they’ll send me back to prison. Here’s my passport. I can’t read, but I know what it says. ‘He’s very dangerous.’
Bishop: Monsieur, you are welcome to eat with us as my guest.
Valjean: I’m a convict. You saw my passport.
Bishop: I know who you are.
Valjean: You’re…you’re gonna let me inside your house?
(The scene switches to the dinner table where Valjean is scarfing down food as quickly as he can.)
Madam Gilot: What crime did you commit?
Valjean: Maybe I killed someone. (He looks at both of them for a reaction.) How do you know I’m not going to murder you?
Bishop: How do you know I’m not going to murder you?
Valjean: What’s that? A joke?
Bishop: I suppose we’ll have to trust each other?
Valjean: I didn’t kill anyone. I’m a thief. I stole food. I stole but I paid for it. 19 years in chains. So they let me out and gave me a yellow passport. What can I do with a yellow passport? I have to go to my parole officer in Dijon, and then what? Starve to death? 19 years, and now the real punishment begins.
Bishop: Men can be unjust.
Valjean: Men? Not God? Alright, whoever you are. Thank you. A meal and a bed to sleep in. A real bed. And in the morning, I’ll be a new man.
(Scene shifts again to Valjean lying in bed remembering the hardships of prison. Eventually, he gets up and returns to the kitchen cupboard where he begins to steal the bishop’s silverware. The bishop comes out to investigate the ruckus, only to be attacked by Valjean. The next morning, an interesting turn of events transpire.)
Bishop: So we’ll use wooden spoons. I don’t want to hear anything more about it.
Officer: I’m sorry to disturb you.
Madam Gilot: You caught him!
Officer: But I had my eye on this man.
Madam Gilot: Thank God.
Bishop: I’m very angry with you Jean Valjean.
Officer: What happened to your eye, Monseigneur?
Bishop: Didn’t he tell you he was our guest last night?
Officer: Oh yes. After we searched his knapsack and found all this silver, he claimed that you gave it to him.
Bishop: Yes, of course I gave him the silverware. But why didn’t you take the candlesticks? That was very foolish? Madam Gilot, fetch the silver candlesticks. They’re worth at least 2,000 francs. Why did you leave them? Hurry! Monsieur Valjean has to get going. He’s lost a lot of time. Did you forget to take them?
Officer: Are you saying he told us the truth?
Bishop: Of course. Thank you for bringing him back. I’m very relieved.
Officer: Release him.
Valjean: You’re really letting me go.
Officer: Didn’t you understand the bishop?
Bishop: Madam Gilot, offer these men some wine. They must be thirsty.
Officer: Thank you. (Madam Gilot escorts the men away, leaving the bishop and Valjean alone in the garden.)
Bishop: (Hands Valjean the bag of silver.) And don’t forget – don’t ever forget, you’ve promised to become a new man.
Valjean: Promise. Why are you doing this?
Bishop: Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil. With this silver, I’ve bought your soul. I’ve ransomed you from fear and hatred. And now I give you back to God.
Forgiveness is always easy to talk about, but never easy to do. Even though we know that Jesus graciously died on the cross to forgive us of our sins, most of us still struggle to offer forgiveness and love to others. Since we can all learn a lot from Christ’s example and the bishop’s example, let’s spend some time looking at what they did so that we can be more forgiving of one another in the future.
Divide into Small Groups:
Let’s go ahead and split up into our discussion groups, and then afterward we’ll come back together for a final word.
CLICK HERE for a quick training article on how to maximize your small groups using our small group format—a great resource to equip your small group leaders.
- AROUND THE CIRCLE: As we begin, let’s each take a second to share our names and the nicest thing someone has ever done for us.
- ASK A FEW: Why do you think the bishop in the movie clip forgave Jean Valjean?
- ASK A FEW: Do you think it was hard for him or not? Why?
- ASK A FEW: Do you think that Jean Valjean deserved the bishop’s forgiveness, kindness and love? Why or why not?
- ASK A FEW: Would you have forgiven Valjean if you were the bishop?
- ASK A FEW: Why do you think that forgiveness is so difficult?
- ASK A FEW: Do you think we have to love and forgive people like Valjean who are evil? Why or why not?
Read the following passage:
Luke 6:27-36 (NIV)
27″But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32″If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. 33And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. 34And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. 35But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Tonight we watched a clip from a powerful movie about an evil man who was given an incredible amount of love and forgiveness by a person he wronged terribly. It was quite an example of a person loving an enemy.
We also looked at a passage of Scripture that deals with our relationship to our enemies. Basically, Jesus said to love our enemies and give them our best, even when we receive their worst. It’s the law of love that Jesus is known for.
But unlike so many who just talk about loving those who harm them, Jesus actually did it. When He was betrayed and turned over to a ruthless crowd, He forgave those who beat and mocked Him. He even loved the very men who nailed Him to a cross! That’s the ultimate example we must follow.
You’ve been issued a challenge this week. At some point during the week, I want you to get with a person that has treated you like an enemy and forgive them. Tell them you love them and then, really truly show them your love.
Like Jesus giving His life on the cross for us, or the bishop giving his silver candlesticks to a crook who has already stolen from him, do something for them that leaves them asking the same question Jean Valjean asked the bishop: “Why are you doing this?” If you do show them radical love and forgiveness, you can then say to them, “I am able to love and forgive you because Jesus has loved and forgiven me, and wants me to love and forgive you.”
This is hard stuff guys, and if you want to know more about it, or talk more about it, we welcome those conversations after we conclude this evening. Just grab one of us, and we can chat.
Close in Prayer
Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Bullying Breakthrough; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers on TheSource4YM.com. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.