Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Gospel According to Les Miserables by Selena Sarns

I was in my third year of college when some friends invited me to go to a musical called Les Miserables. Having never heard of it before, I was a little bit apprehensive. But from beginning to end, I was enthralled with the story of Jean Valjean. I'll never forget witnessing the spiritual transformation of this man and noticing the spiritual overtones of redemption throughout the musical.

It is many years later and I have now seen the musical production a handful of times. Each time being as good as the first. My love for this story was the reason why I wanted to read The Gospel According to Les Miserables by Selena Sarns. It is a book that is broken down into 30 very short devotionals. Each devotional has a short description of some aspect of the story and then a bridge to the spiritual. Here is one example:
"In Les Miserables, many character traits are exemplified through the lives of the individual lives being cast. However, the one trait that is a show of true devotion and love is that of one giving their own life for another. The young Eponine, a waif of a girl and daughter of the evil Thenardiers, is hopelessly in love with someone she can never be with. Marius, the dashing office under Napoleon's command, has his heart set on another. His is a heard of goodness and compassion towards the girl who was part of a plot to entrap him by her wicked father, but he has no romantic intents towards the young girl. Eponine realized that she is in love with someone who will never reciprocated the same feelings, yet she does something that fully demonstrates her devotion to Marius. When an opportunity arises for someone to cause harm to the young colonel, she places herself in harm's way for him. She takes a bullet that is meant for Marius, and gives up her own life so that he might live. It is not until her dying breath that Marius fully realizes Eponine's feelings for him and what she has given for his life. 
Jesus did the same thing for the world. He left the glory of Heaven to come to earth and shed his blood on the Cross of Calvary for each one of us. Jesus was willing to die, so that mankind had hte opportunity to escape the final end for their sin. When each person accepts HIs ultimate show of love, they gain a gift--eternal life. That same show of love is a demonstration towards Christians for how they should be willing to sacrifice for others. Most of the time, the thing asked to be sacrificed is not as intense as sacrificing one's life. It may be small things of time and money; however, it may be larger ways of showing love towards another."
As I thought about reviewing this book, two things came to mind. The first, which is the more critical issue, is that Sarns did a good job with articulating the gospel. It may seem obvious that the gospel is included in a book called The Gospel According to . . .", but I have been shocked before. Sarns talks about the substitutionary atonement of Jesus dying in the place for sinners. While I would differ with her on some of the ways the gospel is presented (this gets into a reformed conversation that isn't the point of this review), I was appreciative that sin, Jesus, the cross, faith alone were mentioned repeatedly.

But with this positive comes a negative. Much of what was written just seems forced. Hopefully that short illustration above proved the point. The spiritual bridge feels mechanical. The writing style is not exactly literary prose.

I have read many books that were really well written and were void of the gospel. This one has the gospel but is not well written. That might seem like a negative. But I will tell you, if you are going to miss on one, I prefer it this one instead of the first. If you are looking for some additional insights into the story of Les Miserables to see some of the spiritual overtones, this book might help. If you are looking for something to change your perspective, I'd look elsewhere.

I received a copy of The Gospel According to Les Miserables by Selena Sarns from The Bible People for review.

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