I didn't personally know Chuck Colson. We never met or spent any time together, though he was a man I admired from afar. After I left atheism and agnosticism behind for a life of faith in Christ, I looked for some community in the Christian church that felt right for me. Though I believed that the biblical claims about Christ were true, I still wasn't overly fond of Christians or their company. It wasn't a sense of superiority or anything. We were just different people interested in different things, and all I wanted was to be left alone. I spent so much of my life hating and being hated by Christians that I distrusted my brothers and sisters in Christ and probably resented them because I thought they failed to see me as something worthy of redeeming. I did as I always do when eschewing the company of people; I retreated into books and study.
In this phase I met - through their writings - the varied people that influenced the way my young Christian mind worked. C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Josh McDowell, Philip Yancey, Ravi Zacharais, and Chuck Colson all added something in their time to my growing understanding of my new worldview. What was I committing myself to intellectually? How did my pro-choice views and my apathy or acceptance of so many things that seemed to send other Christians into a frenzy fit with these new commitments? Memories are tricky things and as I thought about writing this post I had to look back at publishing dates to get some remembrance of my journey to Mr. Colson. Though some of those past influences are no longer a part of my current studies it would be dishonest to deny the impact they had on my early walk with God. Mr. Zacharais and Mr. Colson especially so. They introduced me to the idea that Christianity could be and should be defended against those who dismiss it as blind faith. There are answers if you are willing to do the work to find them and it was okay to change your mind about important beliefs. Chuck Colson introduced the idea of worldview to my life and set me off on a journey that to this day is hard for me to believe is real.
Some of my friends knew Chuck Colson. Everyone that spent time with him talked about him with genuine respect. Many leaders in ministry appear obsessed with bios and titles and seem to focus on what we are on paper. Mr. Colson only noticed when people got things done. The stories my friends tell about him hearing or seeing someone and then immediately pouring his resources behind them to promote their abilities and skills remind me of a general handing out field promotions in the heat of battle. His focus was the message and finding the messengers that got results. That quality is more rare in ministry than it ought to be.
Though I never talked to him we did communicate once by letter. My community was torn apart by a truly horrifying revelation that involved our church and one of its employees. This employee also happened to be a friend of mine. Like the rest of my community, I was overwhelmed and looking for someone to help make sense of it all. I wrote Mr. Colson a letter. A very short time later I received a response. He was on the road with an incredibly busy schedule, but he took the time to dictate a reply through one his assistants. I can't tell you what it said because I honestly don't remember. What I remember is that Mr. Colson found out a guy and his community that he had nothing to do with were hurting, and Mr. Colson made sure that this random guy knew that he and his community were being prayed for by his ministers. He said a lot more than that, but in the end the fact that he cared enough to say anything is all that matters to me.
His work was extraordinary because his heart was extraordinary. That is often true of men and women I meet that are accomplishing great things in ministry. Maybe it is because he knew what it meant to be lost that he was not content to leave the rest of us behind, but whatever God did to make Chuck Colson what he was I pray that he does it to more of us.