By: Jan White
I believe God has a plan and purpose for every life and that He ordains certain people who will cross our paths during our lifetimes.
Some of those people play a significant role in shaping our lives. Our parents, our ministers, our teachers and coaches, and many others help make us who we are today. Then, a few special people become our mentors and impact the rest of our lives.
Author and minister Charles Swindoll has said, “All of us need heroes to inspire and challenge us to live authentic lives of integrity.” Recently, one of my mentors and heroes of the faith, Chuck Colson, died at the age of 80 from a brain hemorrhage. Much has been said and written about this man, formerly known as “Nixon’s hatchet-man” because of his involvement in Watergate. Colson spent seven months in prison for pleading guilty to obstruction of justice in the Daniel Ellsberg Case.
Chuck Colson really never left prison. He saw the desperation and hopelessness of people behind bars and he promised fellow inmates he would do something to help them. After he was released from Maxwell Federal Prison in Montgomery, Alabama, he founded a Christian ministry called Prison Fellowship that’s become the world’s largest outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families.
Colson lived Jesus’ words to “proclaim freedom (in Christ) for the prisoners” (Luke 4:18). Volunteers from various denominations are now ministering in prisons in 113 countries.
When Colson went to prison, there were 210,000 people incarcerated in the U.S. That number has since soared to nearly two million. He saw the root cause of crime as being the breakdown of the family and he addressed the moral and social ills of our culture.
In 1991, he started a daily radio commentary called Breakpoint to speak from a Christian perspective on the important news and issues of the day. He also established the Centurion Program and the Colson Center for Christian Worldview to equip and train “Christians to carry on the culture-shaping work by bringing the Christian worldview to bear in all areas of life.”
In 2008, I was privileged to participate in the Centurion Program, a year-long study that changed my life. Reading his books such as Loving God and The Faith, along with attending teaching sessions by Colson and other great Christian thinkers has made a lasting impact on my faith.
Boston Globe said of his conversion, “If Mr. Colson can repent of his sins, there just has to be hope for everybody.” Some in the media said he had a “jailhouse conversion.” Before he was sentenced, Chuck Colson became a Christian. He tells in his autobiography, Born Again, about how hearing the Gospel for the first time and reading C.S. Lewis’ book, Mere Christianity, showed him he needed forgiveness for his sins.
Colson once said, “One of the most wonderful things about being a Christian is that I don’t ever get up in the morning and wonder if what I do matters. I live every day to the fullest because I can live it through Christ and I know no matter what I do today, 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.”