Sunday, April 22, 2012

Chuck Colson: A Man With Two Stories

Photo Credit: faithmouse
One story tells of a despicable convict with a failed marriage who played a principal role in one of our country's most shameful political scandals. Another story tells of a man transformed by the love of God who enjoyed a nearly fifty year marriage and served prisoners and their families for the last several decades he spent on earth. Both stories speak of the same man - Chuck Colson - who died yesterday at the age of 80.

For most Americans of my parents generation and older, Chuck Colson is known as the "hatchet man" of the Nixon administration, known for the Watergate scandal that eventually led to President Nixon's resignation and caused several members of his staff, including Colson, to spend time behind bars as a result of their roles in this affair.

But for many evangelical Christians, Chuck Colson is known as the founder of Prison Fellowship, a ministry that has touched the lives of countless prisoners and their families through programs like Angel Tree, and a prominent author and speaker that has been a consistent voice of reason for the evangelical community in an increasingly partisan society.

It is likely that the primary narrative you read - i.e. Watergate or Christian leader - depends largely on the source that is reporting on Colson's life. Many mainstream outlets insist on focusing on Colson's troubled past, whereas Christians typically center on his Christian life post-Watergate. To be true to who Chuck Colson was, both stories need to be told.

Similar to the Apostle Paul who met Jesus on the road to Damascus, Chuck Colson was a horrible man whose life was radically changed after he met Jesus. Even those that doubted Colson's conversion story, told so well in his 1976 autobiography Born Again, must admit that his faith was sincere as he was still telling the same story of how his life had been changed by Christ nearly forty years after it happened.

This faith compelled him to start Prison Fellowship to not only meet the spiritual needs of prisoners but to help care for their physical needs as an advocate for prison reform and a spokesperson for the families of those behind bars. Though still considered a political conservative after his conversion, it was evident that he was not the same man. A man that only cares about advancing his political career would not spend the rest of his life serving those that are among our nation's most despised and most forgotten members.

But Colson understood what all sincere Christians whose lives have been changed by the power of the gospel of Jesus comprehend. It is that we are all criminals at heart; wicked people unable to save ourselves. But once we respond to the offer of salvation, God's power is sufficient to change even the most unlikely candidates -- whether that be Saul of Tarsus, Chuck Colson, you or me.

Chuck Colson was a man with two stories. The first, more uncomfortable story was needed so that the second, more glorious story can be told. The complete story of Chuck Colson is a story of redemption and salvation. It is a story of new birth. One might even say that it is a story of an unlikely man being "born again."


Unknown said...

How sad is it that I have never heard of this man. This is a good introduction to his life Scott.

Andrew said...

I have followed this gentleman's life since the 80's. You're right about the "two-faced" life that he led. As a prisoner, his testimony had a profound effect on another political inmate, Benigno Aquino.

Anyway, I wasn't aware that he had already died. I'm sorry to hear that. My prayers are for his family.

Thank you for posting this.


Andrew said...

I've followed this gentleman's life since the 80s, and I'm really sorry to hear that he has died.

You're right about his "two-faced" life, first as a corrupt politician and then as a tireless minister focused on rehabilitating inmates. His testimony as a prisoner influenced the life of another high-profile political prisoner, Benigno Aquino.

Thank you for posting this.