Lessons from Les Miserables

 Grace finds goodness in everythingGrace finds beauty in everything-- U2 from the song Grace Chances are you have seen the stage performance, the film with Liam Neeson or the recent film adaptation of the musical nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture.  Or perhaps you are one of the brave souls who has completely read Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables in its full. There are nuanced, and at times very consequential differences between them, but the theme of The Way of Grace versus the The Way of The Law is undeniable.   Jean Valjean was shown grace, and transformed by it.  Inspector Javier enforced the law, and could not tolerate any relaxing of it.  In the end, Grace prevails. This stands in sharp contrast with another Oscar nominee for Best Picture, Django Unchained, whose “hero” reaps vengeance on the men who enslaved and abused him and his wife.  The Way of Nature rather than The Way of Grace, as the narrator in another film, The Tree of Life, put it. I was struck that the easy paths are The Way of the Law or The Way of Nature.   Moralists and legalists follow the first, whereas hedonists and romanticists follow the second. But the road is narrow on The Way of Grace, and few are willing to travel it.  It is the hard road.  And chances are, you will have to die to yourself on it. In the Middle East the road is an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.   In our nation’s capital, the road is intractable partisan divide.   In our communities the road is litigious.  In our business, the road is Randian.  In our families, the road is divorce. In a strange way, the first two roads lead to the same destination.   Brokenness and hurt.  But The Way of Grace leads to peace and reconciliation. At Clapham, we have decided to go down The Way of Grace.  We look for sojourners, clients and projects that walk on common ground, such as The American Bible Society on the importance of reading the Bible for the formation of virtue and sustenance of democracy.  Recently we have engaged The College Board for a forum at The Wade Center (Wheaton College) to discuss C. S. Lewis’ An Experiment in Criticism and the importance of right reading to the development of the mind and the soul. This road leads to healing and wholeness, which we have also undertaken through such projects as The Poverty Forum and support for The Gates Foundation’s efforts on education reform.   It is our desire to plant gardens along the way that are “true, good and beautiful for the common good.” We could have taken other roads.  Washington is a tempting city for a former senior leadership staffer, and those ways are well traversed.  But we decided to take a road less traveled, and follow in faith to where it leads.  Thankfully, in the Spirit of the original Clapham Group of Evangelicals in the early 1800’s, we believe we have a Guide to help us along the way. We invite you to journey with us.  We would love the company. By the way, I am rooting for Les Miserables.  What our country and the world needs right now is a good dose of grace. What once was hurtWhat once was frictionWhat left a markNo longer stingsBecause grace makes beautyOut of ugly things-- U2 from the song Grace