Friday, December 28, 2012

Love Overcomes Depravity

            Humans are depraved creatures.  I have known this, but fortunately I live in an environment that often allows me to ignore this fact.  However, the day after Christmas I watched Les Misérables.  No denying the depravity—and the hopelessness—of mankind after watching that movie.

            Hopelessness.  Despair.  These two emotions flood the screen for this appropriately darkened and usually dimly lit movie.  Unfortunately, for too many people in this world, the visual created on the screen is a reality, not a special effect.  Although I do not believe the extremely harsh physical condition of the characters in the movie exist in modern United States, Canada, or England, I believe they do exist in less fortunate areas.  However, the depravity of the mind and behavior of the characters exist everywhere—envy, hatred, cruelty, theft, deceit, fraud, extortion, and destruction of character and pride—to name a few.  Each of these sins is coated with hopelessness and despair.

            Yet, cracks in the hard veneer of depravation can happen.    The main character Jean Valjean has every earthly reason to be a ruthless, scheming malefactor the rest of his life.  However, the unconditional kindness and respect of the elderly Bishop Myriel of Digne began to make a crack in Valjean's hard exterior.  Valjean repays his kindness by stealing from the bishop.  When given a chance by a patrolman to condemn the thief, the monsieur shows love to the ex-convict and hands over more silver as a gift from God to start a new life.  The veneer shatters.  He spends the rest of his life seeking to do good for others and showing compassion.

            Fantine, abandoned by her husband, works in a factory to support her daughter, who is virtually a slave for ruthless tavern owners in a nearby town.  When she is wrongly fired from her job, she becomes a victim of abuse and trafficking.  All pride is gone, but she endures for the sake of her child.  When she is rescued, she does not ask for food or comforts or even for revenge against those who wronged her.  She desires someone to care for her daughter.  Despite her ill treatment, love radiates from her heart, not hate nor the depravity of her condition.

            Although more examples of love motivating characters exist, the lack of hate does not always produce positive results.  Revenge, hatred, and disgust empower Officer Javert's efforts to make the whole life of Valjean miserable and virtually unbearable.  However, when Valjean rescues Javert from impending death, the officer becomes lost and confused.  He attempts to hunt down his savior but finds himself unable to shoot him when the opportunity arises.  Rather than graciously accepting the gift of unconditional love and finding a way to be compassionate as well, Javert believes his life is no longer valuable if cannot cruelly hate.  Ironically, the veneer of his depravity cracks, but he chooses to dispose of his life before the hardness can completely fall away for fear that his viciousness may be healed.  Love trumps depravity, but the beneficiary cannot reap the benefits if he refuses to accept the gift of love.

            The real world around us today is full of people with no hope.  People who live in despair that appear to have no way out.  Some have a flicker of hope buried deep, like Fantine, and others are so far into despair that they seem to be a lost cause, like Valjean.  Yet, love can reach them.  Love can make their lives meaningful again.  God has given his children the responsibility of sharing his unconditional love with all, just like Bishop Myriel of Digne.  We are not to first judge who is "worthy" of such love or who will accept it (unlike Javert).  We are to love, because love overcomes depravity.  What have you done this week to show love to someone in despair or to someone who may not seem to "deserve" it?  

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