During his Week of the Ring sermon this week, Heath Stoner preached about honesty and telling the truth no matter the cost. (Kind of like a lecture from Bernie Madoff about fiscal responsibility.) Anywho, Heath used a clip from the movie “Les Miserables” to emphasize his point that you should “swear to your own hurt” which means you should tell the truth in every situation no matter the personal cost.
Now, being a HUGE fan of Les Miserables, this peaked my attention. In my opinion, Les Mis is the most incredible Christian story ever written outside the Bible. It is literally soaking through with the Gospel truth of love and grace and it is widely regarded as an artistic and spiritual masterpiece. While using Les Mis to make his own point, he actually missed the ENTIRE CONTEXT of the story and the motivation of the main character, Jean Valjean. After hearing this mis-handling of Les Mis, it struck me that this is a perfect microcosm of exactly how Teen Mania interprets and teaches Scripture to the interns. They miss the entire concept of the book and the main character, Jesus, and cherry pick isolated incidents to support their position while totally ignoring the context. If you don’t care about Les Mis, you can skip to the last two paragraphs, otherwise read on.
So let’s take a look at how Heath setup this clip:
32:00 – For those of you guys that don’t know the story of Les Mis, Jean Valjean did some bad stuff, some really bad stuff. Its a great book. I had to read the book in highschool. Anybody else have to read it? Did some bad stuff, its a great book if you’ve never read it. Did some bad stuff, but then he gets promoted gets some prosperity in his life, gets some influence and in this clip there’s a guy thats being put on trial for the bad stuff that Jean Valjean had done. And this guy, if he gets convicted, he’s going to go to prison.
So Jean Valjean is in the coutroom and hearing this guy getting accused of doing all these horrible things and Jean Valjean is there listening to it.Would you guys tell the truth? Let’s see what happened?
Ok, first of all, Jean Valjean did not do “some really bad stuff” as Heath mentions here 4 times. He was sentenced to prison and hard labor for stealing a loaf of bread for his starving nephew. Does Heath think that is “really bad stuff” or he is just ignorant? A large part of the story of Les Mis is the injustice that Valjean suffers at the hands of the law. I’m pretty sure that flew right over Heath’s head.
Second, he doesn’t get “promoted.” He deceitfully procures a new identity and lives under an assumed name to escape detection by the authorities who are looking to prosecute him for breaking his probation. In fact, his entire salvation and transformation take place because a Bishop lied to the authorities on his behalf. So I guess neither of them were really “swearing to their own hurt.”
After the interns watch the clip, Heath sums it up before moving on with this statement:
Great, great scene. Somebody that stands up and tells the truth even though there’s consequences.
Heath totally misses the entire point of Jean Valjean coming forward. He does it to spare the innocent man’s life not because he is “swearing to his own hurt” for the sake of “doing the right thing.” Right after, he goes on the run again, deceiving authorities again and for the next 10 years. How does this possibly bolster Heath’s point?
The theme of Les Mis is law vs. grace, mercy vs. punishment. If Heath can turn a character who spends his entire life lying to the authorities (and is justified in doing so) into a model of honesty and telling the truth, something is either very wrong with his reading comprehension or his agenda (or both.) You’ve gotta wonder about the teaching ability of someone who gets something that backwards.
And here’s the thing…you may not care about Les Mis, but I submit that this kind of sloppy, ignorant exegesis is EXACTLY the same no matter what text they use. They overlook the entire mission of God and the point of Scriptures in reconciliation, mercy, love and compassion and instead use isolated verses to beat people over the head with unattainable standards and guilt and condemnation. Then, the interns think thats what the Scripture really says, when in reality its the exact opposite.
As a sidenote, I can’t resist mentioning that even Teen Mania doesn’t really abide by this rule. When I went on my first mission trip with them to Hong Kong and the authorities asked me what I had in my bag while crossing the border to China, was I supposed to say, “I’m bringing Bibles in!” There are plenty of stories in Scripture where God’s people lied and some were even rewarded for it (the Egyptian midwives, Rahab). Instead of taking one Scripture out of context and making it an absolute, let’s look at the entirety of story.