Mitra: Learning from a powerful ex-con
Charles Colson, the hatchet man of Nixon’s infamous Watergate scandal, died on April 21.
More than becoming a prisoner at the height of his worldwide influence, he would perhaps be best remembered as a converted ex-con for Christ who went on to found the largest prison ministry, Prison Fellowship, again with a worldwide influence.
Among those who left indelible marks on his born-again life were larger-than-life heroes of faith in the persons of William Wilberforce, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Abraham Kuyper and, perhaps to a lesser extent, Francis Schaeffer.
These and other Christian reformers set a pathway which, in his middle and later life, Colson was only too glad to tread, following his fall from height of power.
He demonstrated that only a reform backed by the power of the Spirit of God would change lives in and outside the prisons permanently, requiring no (or very little) remission to pre-convicted lives.
In his incessant fight for the real truth, which is convincingly found only in Jesus, Colson spent his even-more- hectic post-White House years to vindicate the biblical message.
“Some say today that the church should take a sabbatical from speaking to the culture at large,” wrote Colson in one of his columns.
“That would be a grave mistake. The alternative to winsomely engaging the culture isn’t blissful withdrawal: it is further subjugation to . . . the dictatorship of relativism.”
The gift of a sharp intellect that he was endowed with, coupled with being a stickler of a post-conversion pungent morality, reminds many of another changed slave of God in the person of King Solomon.
The Old Testament hero made tremendous good use of rightness of God’s wisdom, freely available to those who ask for it, in hundreds of his simple but profoundly life-changing proverbs.
Following one of his puzzling sayings, “Wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her,” Solomon expounded the rightness of wisdom as a way of life.
It contrasts starkly with the life of wickedness as shown all through his proverbs.
Those who had found the true way of life testify to the difference between them.
This means that, when a person takes God’s wisdom as his own way of life, it will characterize what is wholesome and good in him.
This is what Jesus promised when He said He had come to give people life — and that meant a more abundant life.
He is the embodiment of wisdom and truth.
This is an all-important fact to remember when we realize that a message based on falsehood, lies and error, as Watergate signalled, is deadly and of no value at all.
At the same time, a message based on truth does little good if no one hears it.
Upon repenting of his devious ways, Colson made sure people heard and saw the other message through his ministries and oratory.
Solomon compared wisdom to valuable material things, but there is really no comparison.
Colson’s earlier life testifies that the power and the prestige of the White House was not enough prophylactic to his fall from grace.
Both the Old and the New Testament ring with the message of forgiveness, salvation, and hope.
Apostle Peter could well draw back from Solomon’s and Colson’s past when he assured his readers: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
So have done Colson, John Newton (the slave trader) and millions of others from their moral perversion.
God’s wisdom puts danger signs all around us.
The prudent thing to do is to proceed with caution.
In his later years, Schaeffer taught Colson how to swim against the current, contra mundum (against the world), as he puts it.
“But, Schaeffer swam against the world in order to be for the world, the world God made and for which Christ died,” wrote Colson just before he passed away.
Like Colson’s earthly heroes, we too can hardly celebrate his legacy in any other way.