Love Is Not Like Javert

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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[Love] does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.

1 Corinthians 13:

Inspector Javert is one of my favorite figures in all of literature. He plays a key role in Victor Hugo's classic novel, Les Misérables. Most people today know him by way of the musical based on that novel, which captures Hugo's character with surprising accuracy. Given that Javert is not the hero of Les Misérables, but rather the antagonist, you might wonder why I am so fond of him.

The answer is that I can relate to Javert. Though I'm neither a prison guard nor a policeman, I can understand Javert's commitment to justice. There is a part of me that, like Javert, remembers wrong and wants to see wrongdoers pay for their sins. If I were to use the language of St. Paul, I might say that Javert and I are inclined to "keep a record of wrongs." We remember offenses done against ourselves and others. And we don't forget . . . at least without significant divine help.

Yet I have seen how keeping a record of wrongs can be devastating to a relationship. Several years ago, I met with a couple for pastoral counseling. The husband had deeply hurt his wife. When he truly apologized and repented, she was willing to forgive him. It seemed as if their relationship was on the mend. But the wife could simply not forget what her husband had done to hurt her. For several years, she kept bringing it up, again and again. The husband felt ashamed and in bondage to his failure. In truth, his wife had not forgiven him, nor had she any intention of doing so. Ultimately, their marriage was destroyed, not only by the husband's sins, but also by his wife's sin of keeping a record of wrongs.

Love doesn't do this. Instead, love forgives. To be sure, sometimes forgiveness can be a long and painful process. But if we are to be people of love, and if we want our relationships to be shaped by love, then we must ask for the grace to forgive and to wipe the slate clean.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you tend to keep a record of wrongs? If so, why? Has God been helping you to forgive others? How? Are there people in your life whom you need to forgive today? Are you willing to ask the Lord to help you do this? PRAYER: Dear Lord, you know how hard it can be for me to forgive. Keeping a record of wrongs feels so safe, almost righteous. Yet I have seen the damage it can do to relationships, and I am reminded by 1 Corinthians 13:5 that love does not record for history the sins of others.

What will set me free to give up my tendency to hang onto my record of wrongs? To be sure, the clear word of Scripture challenges me to do this. But, perhaps even more powerfully, the more I reflect on how you have forgiven me, the more I am enabled to forgive others. In a very real way, Lord, you don't keep a record of my wrongs. What a wonder! Your amazing grace sets me free to extend similar grace to others. May I be a person of forgiveness, a person with an open, tender heart. May I be one who loves as you love. All praise be to you, Gracious God. Amen.