I never knew Chuck Colson.
Despite this simple fact, I feel compelled to write about this man and his legacy. It’s an odd thing to feel a sense of loss when, indeed, you never had attained something to begin with. Yet this is exactly the way I felt at 3:30 on April 21st, 2012.
I had been following Colson’s health for the two weeks prior to his death when he was quickly rushed out of the Wilberforce conference with a brain hemorrhage. I first heard about it a couple hours after the event and watched along with millions to see what the end result of the doctor’s efforts would be. Alas, Colson went home to dwell in God’s glory.
I first heard of Chuck’s story during my college years though I had certainly heard his BreakPoint commentaries earlier on in my life. They rang out to me as somebody who was wise, who cared about the impact worldviews make on culture, and about the influence culture reverberates into the institutions of government, marriage, and family. Of course I did not always agree with Colson, but more than not he seemed to hit the nail on the head with his advice. Marriage is sacred. Life is sacred. And it’s dangerous when politicians, of whatever conviction, begin to serve their own interests instead of the interest of the people. He knew that fact first hand!
Contrary to his years in which he served with Nixon and with his involvement in the Watergate Scandal, Colson took up the role of a leader. The Manhattan Declaration was something of a Barman Declaration for many. The Christian knee will not be bowed to any other king than Jesus Christ. This means that policies will not be compromised simply because of the Christian kingdom is of a different world. It means that Christians, despite the path the world takes, will hold true to their convictions and refuse to let the government downplay the significance of truth. I was one of the first to sign it.
Last year I began blogging somewhat indirectly for Colson. John Stonestreet, a good friend and former boss with Summit Ministries, took up a part time position with BreakPoint a couple years ago. This is a man I had grown to respect immensely, both as a thinker and a person. John asked me to come on board with The Point Radio and occasionally write articles for him. The blessing was quantified when I realized that, indirectly, I was writing for Chuck. Perhaps he had taken a moment to read an article I wrote. Who knows? But at least he never told John to fire me! 😉
Then this past year I got to meet Eric Metaxas, the author of Bonhoeffer. Metaxas’ books on Bonhoeffer and Wilberforce should be, in my opinion, on the required reading list for all Christians. But it was only after working on some videos with Eric that I realized that he started out his career working for Colson. Here’s the fact of the matter: if Colson is putting out people in the ranks of Stonestreet and Metaxas (indeed, both of these men covered the radio show during his hospital stay) and associating these men with leaders of culture, then he was evidently doing something right.
But perhaps Colson’s greatest legacy was not the people that he put forward as culture leaders. Perhaps it was not The Manhattan Declaration. Perhaps it was not his daily BreakPoint podcast which spoke in 90 second sound-bites about cultural issues. Perhaps Colson’s greatest legacy was his ministry to the forgotten, the stigmatized, and the rejected. You see, Colson, in something reminiscent of Johnny Cash’s visit to Folsom Prison, found part of his heart at home in the prisons. Having been a convict himself, Colson realized that Christ’s call to redemption was not limited to those who could participate in society in functional ways. Indeed, Christ’s call towards redemption almost seems deeper for the addicts, abusers, thieves, or (daresay) those on death-row. Christ did not come for the pious, righteous man. He ate with the prostitutes. Mary Magdalene was possessed by demons. He called a bounty hunter to be his foremost apostle. Would He be in the prisons today? Absolutely. Chuck was where Christians should be. What could be more admiring than a man standing where Christ himself would stand?
I said it earlier on. I don’t agree with Chuck on everything. But his life was ultimately one of redemption. He received it and he shared it. He called for truth to be enacted, not forced. He called for the Church to remember the forgotten. And he called for redemption to be lived out.
“I’ll tell you one of the most wonderful things about being a Christian is that I don’t ever get up in the morning and wonder I’m not doing anything today or if what I do matters. I live everyday to the fullest because I can live it through Christ and I know no matter what I do today, and it may just be in my prayer time, I’m going to do something to advance the Kingdom of God. Now does that make you fulfilled? You bet it does! And it gives you joy about living.” – Chuck Colson