As you may know, yesterday was the one-year anniversary of the death of BreakPoint’s founder, Chuck Colson.
Chuck was and is a tremendous inspiration to me for many reasons, but above all, because he taught me that when you give everything to God, only then are you truly free.
Most BreakPoint listeners are probably familiar with the story of how Chuck became involved in the 1968 presidential campaign, working hard to get Richard Nixon elected. Nixon then appointed him as his special counsel and gave him the office next to his own.
Later, as the storm clouds of Watergate gathered, Chuck, who for some time had felt an emptiness inside, visited his old friend Tom Phillips. Phillips spoke to Chuck about Christ, prayed for him, and gave him a copy of C.S. Lewis' book, Mere Christianity. A few minutes later, in Tom’s driveway, Chuck began to weep. Sitting alone in his car in the darkness, Chuck Colson gave his heart to God.
Meanwhile, Watergate special prosecutor Leon Jaworski wanted Chuck to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of conspiring to break into the offices of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist. Now Chuck had engaged in many dirty tricks during his years in politics, but this was not one of them. At the same time, in his heart, Chuck knew he had contributed to the deeply immoral atmosphere in the White House. Before God, he knew he was terribly guilty.
And so over the objections of his attorney, Chuck decided he had no alternative than to voluntarily confess to a crime he had committed and trust God with the outcome.
So he pled guilty to “disseminating derogatory information to the press about Daniel Ellsberg while he was a criminal defendant.” The result was a shockingly harsh sentence of one to three years.
In prison, the man who’d once had an office next to the president’s spent his days mopping floors and doing laundry. He also undertook serious Bible study. And he began to realize that he was in prison for a purpose.
As I write in my new book, 7 Men and the Secret of their Greatness, Chuck “saw that God had brought him to [prison] to teach him not only that his fellow prisoners were his brothers in Christ but also so that he could identify with them and see the world from their perspective.” He also “saw that his prison sentence and his suffering were part of a grand and holy scheme. God humbled him and brought him to prison precisely so that Chuck could help these men.”
When Chuck was released after serving seven months, he started Prison Fellowship Ministries, keeping his promise to the prisoners he’d left behind. He later started BreakPoint and other ministries. And he became a William Wilberforce for his times, righting wrongs and teaching people to think.
Many people consider Chuck a great man because he spent nearly half his life bringing Christ to prisoners. But I think Chuck’s greatest act was voluntarily confessing to a crime that nobody knew about. The one-time White House “hatchet man” was willing, for the sake of justice and his Christian witness, to go to prison when he could have avoided it. And it was that sacrifice led to all the other achievements in Chuck’s long and busy life. He was a great witness to the divine teaching that when we honor God, He will honor us.
If you know young men who could benefit from examples of heroic manhood like Chuck Colson’s, I hope you’ll consider giving them copies of my book, 7 Men and the Secret of their Greatness. You can find out how to get it at BreakPoint.org.
Through the lives of Chuck Colson and others they’ll learn that God holds for each of us “a grand and holy scheme.”
Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.
Publication date: April 22, 2013