This sermon is part of the sermon series "Introduction to Philemon". See series.
Victor Hugo's novel, Les Miserables, is a story about Jean Valjean, who was sentenced to a nineteen-year prison term for stealing a loaf of bread. During his imprisonment, Valjean hardened into a tough convict. No one could beat him in a fight. No one could break his will. Valjean finally earned his release but found he had nowhere to go. He wandered through the village seeking shelter until a generous bishop had mercy on him. That night, while the bishop and his sister fell asleep, Valjean rose from his bed, rummaged through the house, and crept off into the darkness with the family silver. Three policemen knocked on the bishop's door the next morning, with Valjean in hand. They had caught him with the stolen silver and were ready to send him back to prison for life. But the bishop responded in a way no one expected: "So here you are!" he said to Valjean. "I'm delighted to see you! Had you forgotten that I gave you the candlesticks as well? They're silver like the rest, and worth a good 200 francs. Did you forget to take them?" Valjean was startled and stared at the old man with an expression no words could convey. Valjean was no thief, the bishop told the policemen: "This silver was my gift to him." When the policemen left, the bishop gave the candlesticks to his guest, who was now speechless and trembling. "Do not forget, do not ever forget," said the bishop. "You have promised to use the money to make yourself an honest man." The power of the bishop's act, which defied every human instinct for revenge, changed Valjean's life forever. A naked encounter with forgiveness melted the granite defenses of his soul. He kept the candlesticks as a precious memento of grace and dedicated himself from then on to helping ...
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