Chuck Colson

Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship, was ushered home this week.

Knowing that a man so practical, so no-nonsense and down to earth, aware of the deep needs of others and of society at large has gone before, the veil between this world and eternity seems more thinly drawn.  We’ve a glimpse over Jordan of a man walking on (maybe in his suit and tie), just walking on into the next thing the Lord hands him to do.

I didn’t know Colson personally, but I see the fruits of his labors.  I see the thousands of lives he changed by simply acting on his life’s lessons, by understanding and heeding the opportunity and call he’d received.

Part of the Watergate scandal of the Nixon administration, Colson spent seven humbling months of a one to three-year sentence at Maxwell Prison in Alabama.  Once known as President Nixon’s “hatchet man,” Colson experienced a life changing conversion to Jesus Christ.

Before being released, Colson vowed that he would not forget those he’d met in prison or the horrible circumstances in which they wasted.  And he didn’t.  Nor did he forget their families.

Founding Prison Fellowship in 1976, Colson connected churches of all denominations and confessions in 113 countries, all dedicated to reaching prisoners and their families through in-prison Bible studies and mentoring, and to helping the children of prisoners understand they’re not forgotten, but are deeply loved.  Colson worked tirelessly to transform lives, as well as the criminal justice system that called them to account.

But he didn’t stop there.  Colson called us all to account by promoting a biblically based world view, by publicly tracing, through broadcast and the written word, our trail of degeneracy that contributes to the stock piling of lives in prisons.  Then he pointed us to a better way, to “the” way, the truth, and the life, in Christ.

In that way he reminded me of William Wilberforce—a man who spent his adult life fighting for the abolition of slavery, championing the rights of those society preferred to ignore, as well as calling the world into account for its lack of love and broken morality.  The numbers of lives saved, and the numbers of lives lifted cannot be counted.  That’s true of both men.

I love that we can trace Colson’s journey—from defined moment to defined moment.  He could have swept his humiliating incarceration under the proverbial rug, and with his natural abilities and connections, put it all behind him.  But he chose to radically redirect, to begin anew.  Why?

He was changed—a new life grew inside him, his mind was transformed by the Savior who’d done all for him.  Standing outside, it seems that Colson used his humbling and opportunities for good–and he did.  But from the inside, I believe he was living out his love for Jesus—doing exactly what Jesus had told him to do because his heart, fired by the One who’d saved him, could do nothing else.

Jesus said to love God with all our mind, heart, soul and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves.  Colson took Him at His word, and set about doing that.

Celebrating Colson’s life has made me think about the circumstances of our lives—the hard lessons, sometime learned in humiliation or pain.  Are they for us?  Or are they for us, and for the world?  What are we doing with these unique gifts—these riches that joyfully come our way, and the ones learned in the midst of humbling adversity?

It’s unusually chilly and damp this week, in Maryland.  A mug of hot cocoa, with marshmallows–of course–sounds wonderful.  Will you join me, here, by the fire?

Looking forward to seeing you next week, in the garden, where we’re sure to find some May sunshine.

God’s rich blessings for you,

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  • Hi Cathy,

    I always enjoyed listening to his brief radio comments. He had a way of boiling everything down to the essentials.

    We’ve had the same type of weather here. The hot cocoa with marshmallows sounds delightful.

    Susan 🙂

    • Cathy Gohlke says:

      I appreciated his straight talk and attention to what’s important, even when what he said was not always popular. His ability to tell the truth in love and from a deep concern for humanity reminds me of that quality and determination I see in some other good writers–including you, Susan.

      Thank you for stopping by!

  • Carrie says:

    Thanks for sharing these thougths about Chuck Coleson. I admired him for his commitment to follow Christ and encourage others to do the same. He was a great champion of Christian fiction. We owe him thanks for that.

    • Cathy Gohlke says:

      Thank you for stopping by, Carrie!

      I admired Chuck Colson, too, and am thankful for the work he did and the doors he opened. It’s wonderful when others are gifted with insights that open doors for all of us to better follow the Lord’s leading.

      God’s blessings today!

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