Don’t Just Hum The Songs - Live The Story

Why Les Misérables Should Shape Your 2013

  • Justin Zoradi
Don’t Just Hum The Songs - Live The Story

For as long as I can remember, my family has gone to see a movie on Christmas day. Normally we debate on which film to see, but this year, it was unanimous - Les Misérables.

Despite Russell Crowe’s subpar vocal abilities, I loved the film. But as it ended and lights went up, I was taken aback by just how many people were crying in the theatre. It was something I’d never seen before.

A few days later, this video hit the internet of a young man filming his parents in the car on their way home after the film.

The best line in this video comes at the very end. “We’ve been to funerals of family members and haven’t cried like this.”

Why does Les Misérables elicit such powerful emotions in people?

I believe people are moved by Les Misérables because it taps into something deep within the human narrative.

That “something” is the story of a loving God at work in the lives of ordinary people.

The Bishop is the moral force who kicks everything into motion. In a revolutionary act of grace, he forgives and blesses Jean Valjean, a cast-away convict, after Valjean robs the church.

This simple act of love sets off a ripple effect. Valjean is now on a mission. The love of God burns through him as he provides dignity in death for a prostitute, Fantine. He rescues Cosette from slavery, offers grace to his archenemy, Javert, and saves Marius from battle so Valjean can bless the marriage of his only daughter to a student revolutionary.

So why do we cry during this story? We cry because it inspires all of us to live better lives.

Les Misérables reveals how ordinary people, infused by the scandalous grace of God, have the ability to make great change in the world.
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While in the backdrop of Les Misérables are large scale issues of poverty and political revolution, the soul of the story centers on how one act of kindness can affect the lives of thousands of people. Les Miserables proves that the ripple effect is real.

Of course it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. Les Misérables also depicts the deep spiritual reality of struggle and turmoil. Despite his altruism, Jean Valjean continues to be hunted while shamefully hiding his past from his daughter. Ultimately, he only finds rest in death.

So when you see Les Misérables, and you probably already have, separate yourself from the narrative. Don’t just hum the songs - live the story.

in 2013, we should aspire not to be the protagonist Jean Valjean. We should aspire to be the Bishop. Be the soul of your community this year. Offer grace to people who don’t deserve it, forgive others, and rescue people from their darkest places. It is there where God will meet you and the ripple effect begins.


What type of emotions did Les Misérables elicit for you? Share in the comments below

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Comments (20)

  • Tamara Powell

    Tamara Powell

    01 January 2013 at 23:06 |
    Great breakdown, Justin. I also saw the movie on Christmas day with my husband, brother, and sister-in-law. We were all deeply touched.

    One thing that really struck me about this film adaptation was how the visual aspects of the last scene (which, to me, seemed to depict the space beyond the barricade as heaven) really illuminated this call to 'be the Bishop,' as you say. In this scene, the lyrics of the familiar theme song again asked "Will you join in our crusade?" but this time not of the French revolutionaries, but of "people who are climbing to the light."

    I think you are right that we should walk away from this movie amazed by grace and inspired to offer it to others.
    • Justin Zoradi

      Justin Zoradi

      02 January 2013 at 18:49 |
      Thanks for reading Tamara!

      Love the idea of the space beyond the barricade as heaven. Totally true. One of the best visual scenes in the film.

      'People climbing to the light' - love it.


  • Ben Malick

    Ben Malick

    02 January 2013 at 20:14 |
    Great post. Haven't seen this version of the book yet, but I'm very familiar with the story. I think you've tapped into something sacred... and it's the sacred that makes us cry. Being overwhelmed by grace typically results in an overflow of tears. It's not just a STORY... It's OUR STORY. One must ask themselves, "Where is the Revolution happening in the world around me TODAY?" Is it in France? Europe? Africa? Or perhaps even staring me in the face as I wait in line at the grocery store? Is it seen on the street corner on my way to work? Can I be overwhelmed by grace displayed in others around me to overflow grace (random acts of kindness) to others, both known and unknown?

    The thing about grace is that no matter how big or how small the act may be... It is our loving sacrifice that propels it into action that makes it so sacred.

    May that loving sacrifice move us into gracious action TODAY.

    Once again...Great Post, Justin.
    • Justin Zoradi

      Justin Zoradi

      02 January 2013 at 20:29 |

      Thanks for your comment man. You're dead on. It's not A story, it's OUR story. Love that.

      Thanks for reading
  • Carla Nerelli

    Carla Nerelli

    02 January 2013 at 20:32 |
    I just saw this movie last night and I was completely taken aback by the audience's emotion, as well. There was an elderly man next to me who was quietly sobbing for 2/3 of the movie, and a young couple in front of me where I saw the young man discretely wiping his eyes several times. I found this most interesting because, although I was deeply moved by the story, I did not feel any sense of sadness. Actually, I felt quite at peace. Your discussion of the movie made me realize that, you are right, it may not have really been sadness for the story or characters that these people were feeling, it was much deeper than that. It touched on the humility, generosity, kindness, and egolessness that each of us have inside, but don't often live by. I, too, hope that those who see this movie are touched enough to not just cry at the scenes and songs, but to tap into those emotions and bring them to life in 2013.
    • Justin Zoradi

      Justin Zoradi

      02 January 2013 at 22:38 |
      Great point Carla. You're right. Les Mis wasn't 'sad'. Sorrowful themes, sure, but there is something far deeper going on here. That's why it's so powerful.

      And yes, it's the humanity, the gentleness, and kindness. And I like that term, "egolessness". Thanks for reading and commenting!
  • Julie (@InciteFaith)

    Julie (@InciteFaith)

    03 January 2013 at 03:41 |
    This is a beautiful post and confirms so much in my life.

    Thank you and Happy New Year, Justin!
    • Justin Zoradi

      Justin Zoradi

      03 January 2013 at 17:52 |
      Thanks for reading Julie!
  • Manuel Garcia

    Manuel Garcia

    03 January 2013 at 04:15 |
    My wife and I walked out on the movie about an 1.5 hours into the mess. Although I was looking to be moved, it did indeed moved me to how a profound and deeply moving book could be reduced to a caricature of grace. The section with the priest did offer hope for what the movie could have been but in the end, wasn't. Certainly I know that we all react differently to the word as manifest in celluloid, for me and my house, the words fell off the cliff and drowned under the weight of acting and pacing that never delivered what I was expecting. For those that found life and grace in the film...I am grateful. I was not one of those... sadly. I so much wanted to be.
    • Justin Zoradi

      Justin Zoradi

      03 January 2013 at 17:53 |
      Thanks for your response Manuel. Sorry to hear it didn't pan out for you. I did hear some of the same responses from others. Question, had you seen the play before?
  • Nev


    03 January 2013 at 05:56 |
    Manuel's comments remind me of an aspect that underpins this great story, namely very little of life actually looks like we want and expect it to be. Indeed the horrific events around us seem without cure. But this story provokes tears perhaps because we see Grace doing what only it can do, and that is something only the dead no longer hope for. Looking forward to seeing this.
    • Justin Zoradi

      Justin Zoradi

      03 January 2013 at 17:53 |
      Thanks for reading Nev!
  • Tina Frisco

    Tina Frisco

    03 January 2013 at 07:31 |
    I wonder what Manuel was expecting, since he didn't say. When I saw the film, every one applauded at the end. Can't remember the last time that happened. The energy shift occurring across the planet and throughout our galaxy right now is affecting all of us and, hopefully, raising our consciousness. Certainly our hearts need to be open to one another, and the film eloquently portrayed this. Once Jean's heart opened, he was catapulted into compassion and compelled to assist those in need. Compassion, forgiveness, gratitude - all elements of Grace.

    Thank you for this wonderful post, Justin. Wishing you a blessed and prosperous new year...
    • Justin Zoradi

      Justin Zoradi

      03 January 2013 at 17:54 |
      Thanks for reading Tina and for your great comment. Appreciate it.
  • Hugh McDevitt

    Hugh McDevitt

    03 January 2013 at 20:20 |
    Justin, my wife and I went to see Les Mis yesterday. We have seen the musical twice, and it is one of our favorite contemporary stage shows. One thing that struck me (not a new thought) was Jean Valjean's persistence in giving grace to people he encounters throughout his whole "post-Bishop" life. I was reading in John 1 yesterday that we have received "grace upon grace." Wouldn't it be great if I could be as persistence in giving grace to people in my life as God is and Valjean's character was.
    • Justin Zoradi

      Justin Zoradi

      03 January 2013 at 20:42 |
      Great point Hugh. That's amazing. He keeps giving grace again and again. A lesson for all of us.

      Thanks for reading.
  • Josh Irby

    Josh Irby

    07 January 2013 at 23:06 |
    Great post Justin. I haven't seen the movie yet, but I remember when I sister came home from a trip with the full-length musical recording. I was probably 13 or 14. I sat in my room for hours listening to the story. Truly powerful. Grace. Love. Faith. Sacrifice. I can't wait to see it.
  • Diane Hurst

    Diane Hurst

    08 January 2013 at 16:11 |
    I haven't seen the film, but did get to see the section where the priest gives grace to Jean Valjean (from a different film version, as it was before this new one came out)-- our pastor showed this film clip as part of a sermon, and I can see how this story could have a strong impact.

    I like Ben's phrase for grace: "random acts of kindness." Most people do not have the position or opportunity to do things that cause revolutionary changes on a large scale. But we can all bring God's kingdom to be in our own homes and circles of influence.
  • Iris


    26 June 2013 at 04:55 |
    I've watched Les Mis at the theatre many times as a child and read Victor Hugo's novel. I loved the depth and cinematography the big screen gave to it and that it stayed true to the moral of the story. My husband and I watched the movie with our two boys aged 5 and 7 (they already knew the songs from me playing it constantly!). It was lovely to share something with them that we enjoyed and also explain how love, forgiveness and faith can change lives. So yes we belt out the songs but we're also living the story. Thanks Justin!
  • Elmer


    10 February 2015 at 20:06 |
    Normally I do not learn article on blogs, however I wish to say that this write-up very forced me to try and do it! Your writing taste has been amazed me. Thanks, very nice article.

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