‘I would walk over my own grandmother for Richard Nixon.” With this callous declaration in 1972, Chuck Colson – the Marine captain turned political operative – trumpeted the raw ambition and sheer ruthlessness that permeated the Nixon White House.
Shortly before his indictment and trial, Colson claimed he had been “born again,” and was now a follower of Jesus Christ. Skeptics naturally assumed this was just one more hypocritical ploy, and Colson was sentenced to federal prison in 1974.
Defying the scoffers, Colson, after his parole, went on to form Prison Fellowship, which now ministers to prisoners in more than 150 countries. A spin-off, Angel Tree Ministries, provides 300,000 Christmas gifts every year to the children of prisoners, and another related organization, Justice Fellowship, works to improve the conditions inside prisons and to reform the criminal justice system for nonviolent offenders.
Colson wrote more than 30 books, maintained a weekly radio broadcast, and tirelessly worked for a host of initiatives, such as fighting the spread of AIDS, ending the war in Sudan, and protecting religious freedom.
Meanwhile, whatever fees he earned from speaking engagements were donated back to his ministries. When he won the Templeton Prize for Religion in 1993, he gave the million-dollar award to charity. For 34 years, he spent every Easter worshiping with men in prison.
Colson died last week at the age of 80, his life a bold witness to the transforming power of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, who said, “I was in prison and you came to me.” (Matthew 25:36)
In Colson’s own words, “In every action we take, we are either helping to create a hell on Earth, or bringing down a foretaste of heaven.”
Thanks, Chuck, for that foretaste; may we all be as faithful as you.
THE REV. ED REES IS THE PASTOR OF ST. ANDREW PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN AUGUSTA.