Stuff You Can Use: Les Mis Discussion Part 2

My students are, in a word, obsessed with the 2012 movie version of Les Miserables . Knowing this, I decided to use Les Mis as the basis for our first, three-week series of the year. This series is written as discussions, designed to be interactive. When doing this kind of discussion, I always find it helpful to provide students with a copy of the relevant song lyrics.  

Week 2 Les Mis Discussion: 

Explain: After the Bishop allows Valjean to go free, he abandons his former identity. He rips up the paperwork identifying him as a criminal and starts life anew. Meanwhile, Javert continues to hunt for Valjean. Eventually, their paths intersect.

Watch:  Les Mis, Start: 35:40; End: 40:10

Discuss: 

1. Summarize the scene we just saw. In it, what dilemma does Valjean face?

Leader's Notes: Another man has been charged with Valjean's crime. If Valjean stays silent, this man will go to prison and he will never again have to worry about being sent to prison himself. If Valjean admits they have the wrong man, he will face prison again and in so doing, let down the many people who have now come to depend on him.

2. Valjean know the man who's been arrested for his crime is innocent. In fact, he says, “This innocent who bears my face who goes to judgment in my place.” Read Romans 6:23. According to this passage, who “goes to judgment” in our place? 

3. Since Jesus goes to judgement in our place, does that mean that he, like the man who's been arrested for Valjean's crime, is also innocent? Why or why not? 

4. Read Hebrews 4:15. According to this passage, was Jesus innocent? Why or why not? 

5. Had Jesus not been innocent, could he have gone to judgment in our place? Why or why not?

6. Valjean questions, “Why should I right this wrong when I have come so far and struggled for so long?” As Christians, why should we right the wrongs we see?

7. Read Ephesians 2:8-9. If we are saved by grace and not works, then why should we right the wrongs we see? 

8. Read James 2:14-17. Does this passage contradict Ephesians 2:8-9? Why or why not? 

9. If we are saved by grace and not works, then how is faith without works dead? 

10. Given these passages, why should we right wrongs wherever we find them? 

11. Read the following passages. Decide what, if any, additional reason each passage gives for why we should right wrongs wherever we see them.

- Micah 6:8

- Isaiah 1:16-17

- Matthew 22:36-40

- John 13:35

- Romans 12 (Skim) 

- John 15:13

12. In the song, Valjean reflects, “If I speak, I am condemned. If I stay silent, I am damned.” Tell us about a time when, like Valjean, you found yourself in this kind of no win situation. How, if at all, did you resolve this situation?

13. Right now, lots of people are talking about bullying. To you, what is bullying? How might Valjean's sentiment, “If I speak, I am condemned. If I stay silent, I am damned.” apply to bullying?

Leader's Note: Think specifically about the role of “bystander”, the person who sees what is happening but is not directly involved. If such a person speaks, they might be drawn into the situation; They might become a victim of bullying themselves. If they don't, they allow the victim to continue being bullied.

14. One reason why Valjean is reluctant to turn himself in is that he is the “master of hundreds of workers” who all look to him. Like Valjean, we all have people who look to us. Who looks to you?

15. Near the end of the song, Valjean raises several questions about his identity including, “Can I pretend I'm not the man I was before?” Share as much or as little as you feel comfortable sharing knowing that what you say stays here. When and where do you feel as though you have to pretend to be someone you're not?

16. Eventually, Valjean answers the question “Who am I?” by admitting he's a convict. How would you answer that same question: Who are you? 

17. How do you think other people see you? In other words, what do you think other people know about you? 

18. Do you think there's a difference between what people know about you and who you actually are? Why or why not?

19. Do you think God knows about you or do you think he actually knows you? Why? 

20. Read Isaiah 44:24-25. Based on this passage, do you think God knows about you or do you think he actually knows you? Why?

21. Read 1 Peter 2:9. According to this verse, who are you? 

22. What does it mean to you that you're a chosen race? A royal priesthood? A holy nation? God’s own people? 

23. In light of 1 Peter 2:9, how do you think God sees you? 

24. How would your self-image change if you saw yourself as God sees you rather than as defined by what you do? 

25. In light of 1 Peter 2:9, why should we right wrongs whenever we see them?

Leader's Note: Because of who (or rather) whose we are

Download Part 2 as a pdf

Get Part 1 of the Les Mis Discussion here. 

Jen Bradbury on Youth Ministry

Jen serves as the Minister of Youth and Family at Atonement Lutheran Church in Barrington, Illinois. A veteran youth worker, Jen holds an MA in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus (The Youth Cartel), The Real Jesus (The Youth Cartel), Unleashing the Hidden Potential of Your Student Leaders (Abingdon), and A Mission That Matters (Abingdon). Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. Jen is also the Assistant Director of Arbor Research Group where she has led many national studies. When not doing ministry or research, she and her husband, Doug, and daughter, Hope, can be found traveling and enjoying life together.

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