“The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved: loved for ourselves – say rather, loved in spite of ourselves. . . No, light is not lost where love enters. And what love! A love wholly founded in purity. There is no blindness where there is certainty.” – Les Miserables
The Bishop in Les Mis is my favorite portrayal of a Christian in literature. My favorite quote of his is, “Monsieur Mayor that is just it. I am not in the world to care for my life, but for souls.” Which he said in response to a Mayor warning him he will lose his life if he keeps reaching out to such depraved people. He’s a man who lives his life with complete disregard of protecting his own interest. Rather, he is determined to express Jesus’ love. Which is exemplified in his treatment of Valjean – welcoming him and then forgiving Jean when he bludgeons the Bishop over the head and steals the gold candlesticks. The Bishop does this because he understands Valjean’s soul is being fought over by good and evil. A man’s soul is more important to the Bishop than personal pride or even life.
I think it’s very interesting that along with this information about the Bishop’s behavior to strangers, Victor Hugo explains one other important thing about the Bishop. The quote I started this post with. The Bishop is, at this point in the story, blind. He is cared for by his sister, who adores him. Victor Hugo takes a moment out of the storyline to remark that “Light is not lost where love enters.” The love the Bishop receives makes up for the lack of sight. As Hugo said, “And what love!” I think he says it so perfectly, “to be loved for oneself – say rather, loved in spite of ourselves.”
I think part of why the Bishop is so able to express the love of God with disregard for his own person is because he is confident in love. A love for who you are gives you a security. Think about it, when you know that you are loved for who you are and in spite of who you are by someone, you feel completely free to be yourself. Your time isn’t consumed with putting on a face or watching your behavior to project an image.
I guess, what I’m trying to say is since I’ve become confident that I have someone I can always go to that sees me with perfect affection, always loving all of me, I’ve found myself doing stuff that would have petrified me a few years ago. I’m beginning to understand The Bishop’s freedom from fear.
And that’s exciting. I would love nothing more than to be able to genuinely say, “I am not in the world to care for my life, but for souls.”
Perfect love casts out fear.