UPDATED: “I live everyday to the fullest because I live it for Christ,” Chuck Colson liked to say. “And no matter what I do today … I’m going to do something to advance the kingdom of God. Does that make you fulfilled? You bet it does, and it gives you joy about living.”
Charles W. Colson went home to heaven this weekend at the age of 80 after complications from a brain hemmorhage. What joy for him that he is now in the presence of his Savior for eternity, yet what a loss for the cause of Christ here on earth. Colson was, of course, President Nixon’s lawyer, consigliere, and “hatchet man” during the Watergate crisis. He pled guilty and went to prison for the crimes he committed in the White House. But just before pleading guilty he was dramatically converted — “born again,” as he famously put it, citing John chapter 3 — by his newfound faith in Jesus Christ as his personal Savior and Lord. In the years to follow, he was discipled by several older, wiser Christian men who loved him and helped him develop a love for reading the Word of God and for prayer and also helped him reorient his worldview from a secular worldview to a distinctly Biblical perspective. Soon thereafter, Colson founded a ministry called Prison Fellowship to serve some of the most unsavory and unlovable people in 100 countries around the world with the transforming love of Christ. Through Colson’s ministry, thousands upon thousands of convicts have heard the gospel, heard about God’s amazing love and grace for the lost, turned their lives over to Christ, had their lives completely transformed, and become evangelists, disciple-makers, and game-changers all over the world. What’s more, many Christians have been moved to visit, love and serve prisoners in obedience to Jesus’ words in Matthew chapter 25. Colson thus went from being a convict himself to becoming a remarkable force in Christendom who lived a life of tremendous impact.
“It won’t do for us to just sit around in our sanctuaries, entertain ourselves, sing our ‘happy clappies’ and feel good about ourselves,” Colson once said. “This is a time for the church to engage the world, and it has to be done through the church.” [To read a wonderful magazine profile of Colson in the Weekly Standard, click here]
My interest in politics and my love for Christ in high school led me to read — actually, devour, with great fascination — several of Colson’s books, including Born Again which describes the remarkable story of how he came to Christ (my favorite), Loving God, and Kingdoms In Conflict (which I believe is now out of print). I only met him once (during a booksellers convention we were both speaking at), but was moved by his story and inspired by his example. It was, therefore, a wonderful surprise when I learned several years ago that Colson and his staff had read Epicenter — and were readers of this blog — been intrigued by the conversions of millions of Muslims to Christ, and cited the book in one of his Breakpoint radio commentaries and newspaper columns called, “Why Muslims Convert: They Want Jesus Instead.” The man loved great conversion stories, and loved to encourage believers to be used by the Lord to help convert others.
To his credit, he also loved Israel, was a true friend of the Jewish people, and encouraged Christians to love and bless Israel because of the teachings of the Scriptures. “Much of the world shrugged at this latest mass murder in Israel,” Colson wrote in a 2008 column. “But we, as followers of Jesus Christ, can do no less than raise our voices in outrage for our elder brothers in the faith. Sound the alarm over the consequences if we pull out of Iraq. How many friends do you suppose we would have left in the Middle East if Israel is destroyed?” He told the Washington Post, “Anti-Semitism is a grievous offense for a Christian. God told Abraham in Genesis 12:3 that he would bless the Jews and bless those who bless them. Christians see this as a mandate for how believers are to act toward Jews.”
Please pray for his family and team as they rejoice for him but mourn his passing and miss his presence. Please also pray that the Lord would use the media coverage of Colson’s passing to share the gospel with many people who need to experience the same forgiveness and healing that Colson himself experienced when he met Jesus for himself in 1974.
I read two tributes to him this weekend — and listened to a third today — that I commend to your attention and encourage you to share with others.
- Michael Gerson, “Colson found freedom in prison” (Washington Post)
- Jonathan Aitken, Remembering Charles Colson, a Man Transformed (Christianity Today)
- Eric Metaxas, Thanks to My Friend and Mentor: A Tribute to Chuck Colson (BreakPoint)
On Saturday, June 16th, I will host a live, three-hour “Implosion Simulcast,” which will be shown around the country and around the world. Please sign up your church, home fellowship group, or small group Bible study today to participate in this unique event. It will be distinctly non-political and non-partisan.
- Help Christians bless needy Israelis now and be ready for a possible major new war in the epicenter — please prayerfully consider a generous, tax deductible financial contribution to The Joshua Fund.
- Implosion is now available for pre-order.
- The Tehran Initiative is available in hardcover or e-book
- Follow the “Epicenter Team” on Facebook with the latest news from the Middle East along with prayer requests.
- Sign up for Joel’s (free) email updates called “Flash Traffic”