A single act of mercy can change a life for eternity.
Down and out ex-convict Jean Valjean has found lodging in the home of a kindly bishop. Over dinner, Valjean, recounting the harshness of his imprisonment, blames God as unjust. He looks at the priest, thanks him for the food and the bed, and then exclaims in sarcasm, "And in the morning, I will be a new man!" That night, he has nightmares about prison. He wakes in a panic, and decides that he must do whatever it takes to insure that he never goes back.
Grace, Mercy, Forgiveness, Turn Other Cheek
Valjean creeps into the dining room, and starts to steal the bishop's silverware. The bishop hears a noise and comes out to investigate. Valjean tries to hide, but when the bishop rounds the corner, they are standing face to face. Angry at being caught, Valjean knocks the bishop to the ground and flees. The next day, the police arrive at the church with Valjean in tow. The bishop approaches and tells Valjean that he is very angry with him. The captain laughs and tells the bishop that he found Valjean making off with the bishop's silver and that, when asked, Valjean argued that the bishop had given it to him. The bishop replies, "Yes, of course I gave him the silverware. But why didn't you take the candlesticks? That was very foolish." He sends his housekeeper to fetch the candlesticks, telling her to hurry as Valjean "has lost a lot of time." After dismissing the officers, Valjean appears thunderstruck. He cannot understand what has just happened to him. The priest hands him back his bag with the silverware and the candlesticks inside. He pulls back Valjean's hood so that he can look him in the eye, and says, "Don't ever forget, you've promised to become a new man." Valjean, stunned, asks, "Why are you doing this?" The bishop tells him that he no longer belongs to evil, "with this silver I've bought your soul. I've ransomed you from fear and hatred. And now I give you back to God." The rest of the film concerns Valjean's attempt to live out the bishop's charge.
You will be hard pressed to find a better illustration in film of the power of turning the other cheek. The bishop, by refusing to press his rights, literally redeems Valjean from what would certainly have been a life sentence at hard labor. His gift to Valjean is free, but as with the woman caught in adultery, it comes with a command, that he "go and sin no more." That Valjean strives to keep that command is a testimony to the power of mercy and love, and it shows how we, in modeling God's forgiveness, can help to usher some into His Kingdom.