The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. (1 Tim. 1:14)

It’s one of the most famous stories in literature. In Victor Hugo’s classic novel Les Miserables, Jean Valjean is caught stealing the bishop’s silverware. When the police drag him back to the scene of the crime, though, the bishop not only insists that he gave Valjean the silver but also hands him two silver candlesticks, saying, “You forgot to take these.” That gracious act transforms Valjean. He gratefully sells the silverware to begin a new and productive life, but he keeps the candlesticks, which forever represents grace to him. As the reformed thief breathed his last at the end of the book, Hugo wrote, “The light from the two candlesticks fell upon his face.”

That’s a powerful story, but I know a better one, and so does every born-again child of God. “It is by grace you have been saved through faith,” the apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians (Eph. 2:8). When he later wrote to Timothy, who was pastoring that same Ephesian church, he shifted to a first-person pronoun (1 Tim. 1:14). This was Paul’s testimony too: If not for grace . . .

Certainly the lost silver cost the bishop a great deal, but think what Christ’s sacrifice cost him. No wonder the German martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer warned us not to settle for what he called “cheap grace” by being unwilling to pay the cost of discipleship. Paul didn’t, Bonhoeffer didn’t, and neither must we.

Never forget the difference God’s grace has made.

Bob Black is professor emeritus of religion at Southern Wesleyan University, where he served for thirty-two years. Along with Keith Drury, he coauthored the denominational history, The Story of The Wesleyan Church.

© 2019 Wesleyan Publishing House. Reprinted from Light from the Word. Used by permission.