Charles “Chuck” Colson passed away last Saturday. He was remembered in the news as a player in the Watergate scandal, one that spent time in prison. But to think this is all he should be remembered for is a great loss, for there was far more tho this man than that period of his life.
I knew little about Colson before his passing. I had heard his name because he was an author and a Christian figure. But it wasn’t until I read this article, written by a former mentee of Colson’s, that I get a taste of his life’s significance. He called him, “the most thoroughly converted person I’ve ever known.”
Colson’s time in prison would help to form a dividing line in his life.
His life before prison defined by scandal. His life after prison defined, “not by some cause, but by someone. ”
His conversion was mysterious to many, as is usually the case. But even Chuck himself is said to have marveled at it.
“Many wondered at Chuck’s sudden conversion to Christianity. He seemed to wonder at it himself. He spent each day that followed, for nearly 40 years, dazzled by his own implausible redemption. It is the reason he never hedged or hesitated in describing his relationship with Jesus Christ.”
The best measure of someone’s faith is in their actions. And by that measure, Chuck seemed to have a deep faith.
“Chuck led a movement of volunteers attempting to love some of their least lovable neighbors [prison inmates]. This inversion of social priorities — putting the last first — is the best evidence of a faith that is more than crutch, opiate or self-help program. It is the hallmark of authentic religion — and it is the vast, humane contribution of Chuck Colson.”
A life of significance
But what is most significant and poignant that we should glean from his life is this:
“Chuck’s swift journey from the White House to a penitentiary ended a life of accomplishment — only to begin a life of significance. The two are not always the same. The destruction of Chuck’s career freed up his skills for a calling he would not have chosen, providing fulfillment beyond his ambitions.”
That is a beautiful picture of the power of the Holy Spirit and the incredible calling of God on our lives. This is what’s great about Christianity. Where else could the ex-con go on to start something called Prison Fellowship, “the largest compassionate outreach to prisoners and their families in the world, with activities in more than 100 countries?” How else could someone escape the shadow of Watergate to be remembered as, “one of the most influential social reformers of the 20th century?”
Only through the redemptive power of the Holy Spirit.
A lot of us live lives marked by knowing about the Spirit. Chuck Colson, it seems, lived a life marked by knowing the Spirit. There’s a significant difference.
I’m by no means an expert on the life of Colson. But after reading the little I have, I can’t wait to explore his life further.
What about you? Are you interested in learning more about Chuck?