Pastor's Corner: Who was Chuck Colson?

By Daniel Ausbun
First Baptist Church, Moreland
Nearly 2.5 million Americans are incarcerated in the United States, almost 1 percent of the U.S. adult population.
Five million adults are on probation or parole. Three percent of the adults in the U.S. are either incarcerated, on probation or parole. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. You’re more likely to go to jail in the United States than any other country.
Most free people aren’t thinking about those locked up. They’re out of sight, out of mind, and many times forgotten about. Jesus spoke about the importance of remembering people in prison. He said, “I was in prison and you visited Me” (Matthew 25:36). Christ is saying His disciples shouldn’t forget about prisoners. They are considered “the least of these brothers of Mine” (Matthew 25:40).
Several books of the Bible were written from prison cells.
Paul wrote four prison epistles: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:20, “For this I am an ambassador in chains.” Peter and John were arrested, and 5,000 men were saved (Acts 4:4). God revealed His Word to those in captivity and used imprisonment to spark revival.
Chuck Colson founded Prison Fellowship in 1976 with a vision and a few supporting friends to proclaim to inmates the love and power of Jesus Christ. His vision of reaching inmates for Christ came from personal experience.
Colson served as special counsel to Pres. Richard Nixon and was referred to as Nixon’s “hatchet man” during the Watergate scandal. In 1974 Colson pleaded guilty to the charge of obstruction of justice for attempting to defame Daniel Ellsberg, a military analyst whose release of documents that came to be known as the “Pentagon Papers” was particularly embarrassing to the Nixon administration.
On July 9, 1974, Colson was the first member of the Nixon administration to go to prison for his involvement in the Watergate scandal.

Awaiting trial, someone shared the Gospel with him. Colson’s self-assurance and religious apathy broke after a Christian businessman friend, Tom Phillips, prayed for him. Phillips read to him from C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity,” a passage Colson later said led to his conversion. At the time, many doubted the sincerity of Nixon’s “hatchet man.”

“Jailhouse salvation” is one of the first thoughts of others when prisoners claim to have found Christ behind bars. Colson’s salvation proved to be genuine.

Prison Fellowship’s logo since shortly after the group’s founding in 1976 has featured a bruised reed, referencing Isaiah 42:3, “He will not break a bruised reed, and He will not put out a smoldering wick.” That reflected Colson’s belief that no one – not the most hardened criminal nor the most egotistical Washingtonian – was beyond hope.

Colson could have been released from prison and tried to erase the memories and downplayed the missing and embarrassing time of his life spent there. He realized God had allowed him to see the top and then fall to the bottom with a greater purpose. He would return to prisons all over the world, to share the message that sets prisoners free.

Jesus stated one of His purposes for coming was to set people free. “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom to captives” (Luke 4:18).

Have you given up on someone?

Do you know someone incarcerated you’ve forgotten about?

Is your “record” or “past” haunting you?

Chuck Colson died on April 21, 2012, after going from the White House, to federal prison, and then founding the largest prison ministry in the world. He’s an example of someone whom God wasn’t finished with.



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