I have a confession to make. I actually like a Broadway song.

That’s right—I said it. I really dig a Broadway tune. I still love rock, R & B, even some hip hop and rap. I guess you can say I have an eclectic taste when it comes to music, so add Broadway tunes to the list as well. Or, at least, one Broadway tune called; “Do You Hear The People Sing?” This song is from the Broadway hit, Les Miserables.

If you have seen the play (or the movie version that came out in 2012) then you will know the setting for this stirring anthem. Les Miserables was written in 1862 by Victor Hugo as a historical novel about the French Revolution and is recognized as one of the greatest works of the 19th century. It is the story of an ex-convict named Jean Valjean who breaks parole after serving 19 years for stealing bread to feed his sister’s starving child. All throughout his life Valjean is being pursued by a “letter of the law” police Inspector named Javert. Along the way Valjean experiences mercy and grace from a priest that transforms his life and in return, he gives mercy and grace to others in need. Though Valjean is a man of great kindness and constantly does good for others, Javert will have nothing of it and he continues to hunt Valjean down. This story is a tremendous illustration of the gospel message of sin, condemnation and redemption.

One of the epic scenes in the play (novel or movie) occurs when young idealistic French revolutionaries, tired of the mistreatment of the poor, barricade themselves on a street to make their stand against the mighty army of France. Their passion for justice is heard in the song they sing, the song, my song, that I love. I remember the first time I heard this song. I was sitting in the cheap seats in a theatre in downtown Toronto and I have to admit, I was wiping the tears from my eyes when I heard these words sang with passion and hope.

And the verses proclaim:

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?

Then join in the fight
That will give you the right to be free!

Will you give all you can give
So that our banner may advance
Some will fall and some will live

Will you stand up and take your chance?
The blood of the martyrs
Will water the meadows of France

Now that’s a song that should be sung in churches and at mission conferences around the world. What drew tears to my eyes is that I couldn’t help but see the faces of people I love who do not know Jesus. I saw those hurting ones that I serve in government housing neighbourhoods facing hunger, poverty, incarceration, hopelessness—people lost without Christ! Then anger began to swell in my heart. A righteous anger kept building up inside of me against Satan, oppression and injustice and I began to sing, right there in the theatre, with all my heart and soul as I pictured a group of Christian revolutionaries joining me in singing:

Do you hear the people sing?
Singing the songs of angry men?
It is the music of the people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!

I wanted to challenge the Church to join together as I sang;

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?
Then join in the fight
That will give you the right to be free!

Every ground-breaking movement is energized by music. Just ask those who sang “We Shall Overcome” as they marched though Salma with Martin Luther King Jr. So, what is our revolutionary song? What is the song of the church? I found a great one from Les Miserables. What’s yours?

COLIN MCCARTNEY is an ordained minister, speaker, and a bestselling author. He is also the founder of UrbanPromise Toronto and now leads Connect Ministries in Toronto where he, his wife Judith, and their two children reside. For information in booking Colin as a speaker, please visit www.connectministries.org.


THE ARTICLE ABOVE WAS FEATURED IN THE MAY 2017 ISSUE OF SEVEN MAGAZINE. 

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