No doubt his conversion story and prison ministry were my first impressions of Chuck Colson, growing up in that thoroughfare of evangelical ministries, Wheaton, Ill. But it was reading his Kingdoms in Conflict — integrating that redemption and heart of service with critical thinking about culture and political realism — that really got my attention.
A quarter century after publication, the book remains as relevant to the questions troubling the rising evangelical generation. It warns against conflating political and religious means and ends on the one hand, and of divorcing faith from politics on the other. “Every generation has an obligation to seek anew a healthy relationship between church and state,” Colson wrote in Kingdoms in Conflict. “Both are reflections of man’s nature; both have a role to play.”
So many of us can point to a Colson book prompting us toward our callings, helping form our intellectual framework for grappling with faith, culture, and politics in an increasingly pluralistic age.
In what would be his final months, Chuck communicated a deep sense of urgency about protecting life, marriage, and religious liberty — and especially our freedom to speak and act on Biblical teaching about them. As Chuck finished his race, he was busy equipping Christians for the steep grade ahead, as we face challenges such as the HHS anti-conscience mandate and the redefinition of marriage.
In 2009, I interviewed Chuck for a Heritage Foundation project called “Seek Social Justice” on poverty and social breakdown. He was generous with his time and, toward the end, contemplative: “At this point in life . . . the honors and degrees and stuff you get are meaningless,” Chuck reflected. “But to see lives transformed, that’s the greatest thrill there is.”
Amen, testifies the chorus of tributes to a life redeemed.
One of the opportunities I have been afforded during my time as president of the Family Research Council is not only to meet, but to become personally acquainted with many of our nation’s greatest conservative and Christian leaders. One of the foremost of these has been Chuck Colson.
Long before I arrived at FRC, I admired Chuck Colson because of his commitment in showing both the truth and the love of Jesus Christ. He was a living example of the power of a redeemed life.
When you can look over the lives of great people, their efficacy in serving others is often in direct proportion to the degree that an event or events in life have humbled them and broken them from self-seeking ways. Going from the pinnacle of power in the office of President Nixon to the powerlessness of prison, Chuck found his purpose — knowing and serving his Creator.
I consider myself privileged to have had Chuck as a mentor and teacher. My prayers go out to his wife Patty, the Colson family, and all of his team at Prison Fellowship.
Chuck Colson finished the race of life strong, leaving a legacy that will continue to bring light to the darkened hearts of millions.