May 14, 2009
Sometimes people make the most powerful witnesses in the least expected way. Last Friday, I was humbled to give the eulogy at the memorial service for Jack Kemp at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. The crowd overflowed that historic sanctuary. Buses brought congressmen and senators. People came from far and wide to pay respects to one of the most energetic and effective political servants of our generation.
It was extraordinary. In my eulogy I made the biblical truth as clear as I was able, talking about what I believed, what Jack believed, what his whole family believed. The pastor, Rob Norris of Fourth Presbyterian Church, gave the main message, from Job 14:14: “Can a dead man live?”
It was one of the clearest expositions of Scripture I’ve ever heard, powerfully presenting the Gospel—and all this being listened to by most of the power establishment of the city of Washington. Some of the commentators afterward said that there had never been such an overtly Christian memorial service in the National Cathedral.
And in the last several days, there has been a flood of columns and commentary from both sides of the political aisle, appreciating Jack and the memorial service.
Peggy Noonan wrote an extraordinary column about Jack in last weekend’s Wall Street Journal. I was especially moved by Noonan’s words about Jack’s wife, Joanne, who was the strongest spiritual influence on Jack’s life. Joanne has served on Prison Fellowship’s Board for 15 years. She and Jack raised four children and 17 grandchildren in the faith. And she gave Jack the love and support he needed to carry out his work.
Perhaps Jack would have been surprised at what a powerful witness for Christ his life truly was. You see, Jack gave his life to Christ two decades ago. But he didn’t feel comfortable sharing his faith. He would talk about being a Christian, and he left no doubt about his faith. But he wasn’t an evangelist—or so he thought.
But you see, as I’ve come to understand so powerfully in the past weeks, Jack Kemp’s life was his witness.
God used the death of one of the great public servants of our age for perhaps the most powerful witness I have seen in Washington. I sensed the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Cathedral that day. And I know many others did as well—perhaps to their great surprise. No one there, believer or not, could have walked away without understanding why and how Jack Kemp lived the great life he did.
Ironically, Jack told Joanne before he died that he wanted a simple service in his home church. He didn’t care to have testimonies from political friends or professional colleagues. He just wanted a Christian service. Well, the outpouring was so great, the memorial had to be moved to the National Cathedral. It wasn’t the simple affair Jack wanted—but it certainly was Christian. And God, beyond anyone’s expectations, used the amazing service to glorify Himself through Jack’s death.
I recommend you view the video of this moving service. All you have to do is go to the website of the National Cathedral. Or come to BreakPoint.org, and we’ll provide you a link.
As C. S. Lewis said, Christians never say “good-bye.” So to our beloved friend Jack, we simply say au revoir—until we meet again.
Chuck Colson’s daily 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.