Charles “Chuck” Colson died Saturday afternoon. He was 80. Chuck became a great and influential evangelical leader after serving time in prison. However, his proclamations following his release that he was a new man ─ redeemed by his Christian faith ─ were met with more than skepticism by those angered at the abuses he had perpetrated as one of President Richard Nixon’s hatchet men.
But Chuck Colson spent the next 35 years steadfast in his efforts to evangelize to a part of society scorned just as he was. And he became better known to so many of us for his efforts to minister to prison inmates as for his infamy with Watergate.
I can’t help but see a remarkable similarity to the life of the Apostle Paul — a brilliant man whose zeal led him to persecute Christians before experiencing a majestic epiphany on the road to Damascus — an event that radically changed the direction of his life forever.
Near the end of his life, Colson felt a compelling need to teach fellow Christians about what he called a “biblical worldview.” He believed that too many were being influenced by the world and its attitudes and that people who follow Jesus need to think as He did and be “transformed by the renewing of their minds.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R- Kentucky) described Colson’s story as “a constant and necessary reminder to those of us in and out of public office of the seductions of power and the rewards of service.” Pastors, beware!
“His famous redemption story and tireless advocacy on behalf of the marginalized and the outcast have called all of us to a deeper reflection on our lives and priorities,” McConnell said. “He lives on as a modern model of redemption and a permanent rebuttal to the cynical claim that there are no second chances in life.”
How relevant for each of us. The gospel message is one of hope and grace and second chances. Jesus’ intent is not to condemn us, but to save us. Each of us can have a second chance.
Mistakes — though sometimes innocent — for those of us who serve the church can determine our legacy. While we extend grace to those who fail, it is a reminder that all of us really need to be careful about how we relate to others. I deal with clergymen all the time who made one “little” mistake in behavior or judgment that disqualified them for further service as pastor to their church.
The solution? Constant safeguards — building a hedge of protection around your life and ministry. I don’t mean to be simplistic, but this verse is a definite safeguard: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:7-8).
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).
(P.S. Please don't forget to prepare your people to celebrate and participate in the National Day of Prayer next week.)