Forgiveness and Shame
Scheduled for August 24
Sickles was, in the 1850s, an up and coming politician, a Congressman from New
York. He was a member of one of the most prominent of political organizations
(and the most corrupt): Tammany Hall. He had his sights set upon becoming
president of the United States. He might have made it -- had he not shot and
killed Philip Barton Key.
was the son of Francis Scott Key, the man who wrote “The Star Spangled Banner,”
our national anthem. He was a good friend of Sickles. He was also Sickles’
lawyer, and Sickles appears to have used his influence to have Key appointed as
United States attorney. He also was Mrs. Sickles’ lover.
day, on the street across from the White House, Sickles met Key. He pulled out
his revolver and shot him dead on the spot. That accomplished, he walked down
the street to surrender the revolver (and himself) to the Attorney General.
trial was a public circus. People debated whether or not Sickles was a man who
had defended the sanctity of marriage or a common murderer. Remember, this was
in a time when almost everyone in America believed that divorce was morally
wrong. Adultery was not “an affair,” but one of the worst sins anyone could
commit. Meanwhile, his defense team (including Edwin Stanton, later the Secretary
of War for Abraham Lincoln) came up with a new defense. For the first time in
American justice, they raised the defense of “temporary insanity.” They
argued that the shock of finding out that his wife was untrue to him, and with
his best friend, was so great as to render him insane. The court acquitted
returned to Congress to find himself an absolute pariah. When he entered the
hall, other members refused even to sit near him. He was totally ostracized --
but not for murder. You see, he had done something so utterly scandalous as to
make the shooting seem trivial by comparison. He forgave his wife, and took
implies judgment. Judgment implies shame. If there is to be forgiveness, then
the shame must somehow be borne. The shame of our sins was borne for us on the
cross of Calvary. Like Hosea of the Old Testament, like Dan Sickles, our Lord
has taken us back, despite our shame. He bore the shame for us, for as the
12:2 NIV) Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame,
and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
indeed, let us “fix our eyes on Jesus.” As we eat the bread and take the cup,
let us remember that He bore our shame as well as the pain on Calvary. He is
indeed the author and perfecter of our faith, at the right hand of God.
Communion reminds of the price of that joy.