prison bars

Jean Valjean walks the streets as a “free” man but is rejected over and over by the community. Wasn’t 19 years in prison enough payment?  No, he is a man still behind bars albeit invisible ones. Is it possible to overcome the past, to overcome the labels? The brand on his chest is for life. Will he ever be seen as anything but a thief?


The priest spoke words of life to Valjean, “Remember this my brother, see in this some higher plan. You must use this precious silver to become an honest man. By the witness of the martyrs, by the passion and the blood; God has raised you out of darkness. I have bought your soul for God.”

“Brother!” The priest called him “brother” though Valjean was a marked man, a thief. Haunting words in sharp contrast to how the community has labeled him.

With unmerited forgiveness the Priest provides a new perspective, a new way.  Jean Valjean wrestles with the brand on his chest and this new path offered. His only hope to escape his shame and the past is to receive this unimaginable grace. To live in freedom, he must now take on a new identity. It is a decisive choice.

God has raised me out of darkness, and Jesus has truly bought my soul for God! The only Priest who can. Jesus offers new life, a new identity. Like Valjean my hands move across jagged scars left by my sin. And each time, I have a choice. Will I focus on the scar? Will I focus on the label the scar embodies? Will I focus inward? On the sin which so easily entangles me?

Far too often as believers we succumb to the branding or labeling we heard as children, or labels we have placed on ourselves. In sharp contrast Jesus calls us “beloved”, “chosen”, “redeemed”, “free”, His “bride.”   Oh God when I see or feel these thick scars that chain me to my past, help me focus on what YOU say is true of me.  Let these scars remind me once again of YOUR amazing, unmerited grace, love, and forgiveness. Help me look up and choose to walk freely in my new identity.

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”  Galations 5:1