In the 17th century, God blessed a man by the name of Gian Lorenzo Bernini with incredible artistic abilities. Heir apparent of Michelangelo, Bernini is best known for sculptures such as Apollo and Daphne and The Rape of Prosperpine, but he was also sought out by the Church and nobility for his paintings and architecture. One of his most beautiful works, however, was neither commissioned by pope nor created for payment. His bust of Costanza Buonarelli (or Bonarelli), shown here, captures the beauty of a “regular” woman, not a mythical figure or heavenly host. Costanza was, in fact, Bernini’s mistress.
Bernini openly insulted Costanza’s husband (his assistant), thus making the affair public. To make matters worse, Costanza was suspected of also having an affair with Bernini’s brother—Bernini sent someone to her home who savagely cut her face. But it was Costanza who was arrested and imprisoned for adultery.
The Pope himself, Urban VIII at the time, stepped in on Bernini’s behalf, not wanting to lose his sought-after services. His penance, instead, was to settle down and marry. Apparently Bernini changed his ways—his marriage lasted 34 years and produced 11 children.
It is a tragic tale of love gone terribly wrong, with devastating consequences, but it is also the story of a man with helpful connections. Not to in any way excuse Bernini’s actions, but if you’re going to completely mess up your life, you would be wise to know someone powerful enough to speak up for you, smooth ruffled feathers, calm the turbulent waters.
I submit that we are, each one of us, more like Gian Lorenzo Bernini than we might be comfortable with. Perhaps our sins are not so public. Perhaps they are not so hurtful. The truth is, however, that we are all guilty before a pure and holy God. We have all sinned, Romans 3:23 tells us, and fallen short of his glory. James 2:10 goes on to say that “whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (NIV).
Costanza had no powerful connections to keep her from prison. Bernini’s talent assured him of friends in very high places. What about us?
C. H. Spurgeon (1834-92) wrote of our own “connection” this way:
"If any man sin, we have an advocate." Yes, though we sin, we have Him still.
John does not say, "If any man sin he has forfeited his advocate," but "we have an advocate," sinners though we are. All the sin that a believer ever did, or can be allowed to commit, cannot destroy his interest in the Lord Jesus Christ, as his advocate. The name here given to our Lord is suggestive. "Jesus." Ah!
then He is an advocate such as we need, for Jesus is the name of one whose business and delight it is to save. "They shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins." His sweetest name implies His success. Next, it is "Jesus Christ" Christos, the anointed. This shows His authority to plead. The Christ has a right to plead, for He is the Father's own appointed advocate and elected priest. If He were of our choosing He might fail, but if God hath laid help upon one that is mighty, we may safely lay our trouble where God has laid His help. He is Christ, and therefore authorized; He is Christ, and therefore qualified, for the anointing has fully fitted Him for His work. He can plead so as to move the heart of God and prevail. What words of tenderness, what sentences of persuasion will the anointed use when He stands up to plead for me! One more letter of His name remains, "Jesus Christ the righteous." This is not only His character BUT His plea. It is His character, and if the Righteous One
be my advocate, then my cause is good, or He would not have espoused it. It is
His plea, for He meets the charge of unrighteousness against me by the plea that
He is righteous. He declares Himself my substitute and puts His obedience to my
account. My soul, thou hast a friend well fitted to be thine advocate, He cannot
but succeed; leave thyself entirely in His hands.
We who know we have been forgiven by the shed blood of Christ should be the last to need forgiveness again, but we are in almost perpetual need through our thoughts, actions, and words. Thanks be to God for an Advocate who stands with us before the Judge and says, “This one is mine. Remember? I have already paid for that in full.”