On August 9, 1974, President Richard M. Nixon became the first president in the history of the United States to resign his position. For those of us old enough to remember, this was the result of the Watergate scandal, an incident that deeply divided the nation during Nixon’s reelection campaign – impeachment proceedings were underway. Several of his lieutenants were eventually prosecuted and the country was in turmoil.
What made the situation even worse was the fact that Nixon’s vice-president, Spiro Agnew, had recently resigned in disgrace after being involved with tax evasion and political corruption charges. The country was in no mood for more illegal activities from its senior leaders. Eight months earlier, after Agnew resigned, President Nixon chose Gerald Ford as his new vice-president. For years, Ford had been in the House of Representatives and was well respected by both parties.
After Nixon resigned and departed for his home in California, the new President was sworn in and spoke to the nation in a televised broadcast stating “My fellow Americans, our long, national nightmare is over…” President Ford became the only president in US history to be selected for the office rather that run for election.
One month later, Ford issued a statement on this date, September 8, 1974, giving Nixon a “full, free and absolute” pardon for any crimes that he had committed while in office. The nation was furious as Ford put the health of the nation ahead of his own political ambitions – sealing his fate to never be elected to the office he held at the time. Although Ford ran for election, he lost to Jimmy Carter who became our next president.
Decades later, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation presented its 2001 Profile in Courage Award to Ford for his pardon of Nixon back in 1974. The Foundation said that Ford had placed his love of country ahead of his own political agenda and brought needed closure to the nation following the Watergate affair.
There is no question that Ford did the selfless thing. He had come to the office through selection, not election, and never had aspirations of leading the nation. He was widely respected by both sides of the aisle in Congress and was a humble president, surviving two assassination attempts during his short time in office.
Jesus, on a much grander scale, did the same thing for all of us. He was selected by His Father to be the sacrifice for the sins of the world. He was humble and put His love of Man ahead of His own personal safety and well being. Jesus understood that His lot in this life was to do the will of His Father and He went to His death on a cross, saving all of mankind in the process. The resurrection was the illustration of defeat over death and re-connected us with God eternally.
Our verse for this evening from Paul, the author of Romans, tells us in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” In fact, the death of Christ provided us with a full, free and absolute pardon for our sins as well. My encouragement this evening is that God loves us and wants us to live lives free of sin. My prayer is that we will understand the magnitude of sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf – putting the needs of Mankind ahead of His own personal agenda. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…