Colson, former White House special counsel to the Nixon administration, shared three personal reflections in his own life as he spoke to the 296 graduat" />
JACKSON, Tenn. – May 21, 2001 – Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship, implored graduates to be thinking Christians in an unthinking age as he spoke during Union University’s 176th commencement.
Colson, former White House special counsel to the Nixon administration, shared three personal reflections in his own life as he spoke to the 296 graduates and more than 5000 friends and family in attendance. The first counsel was to never despair because God is sovereign.
"There is a tendency in the Christian world today to be dismayed because of the persecution we’re experiencing on all sides,” said Colson. He pointed to the early church’s maltreatment. “Christians will always be mocked because we believe in the scandal of the world – that Christ was crucified.”
Once known as the White House “hatchet man,” Colson relayed his experience in prison 27 years ago, and said it was a shock to go from an office next door to the president of the United States to a cell with drug pushers, swindlers and car thieves.
“The shattering experience, though, was the realization that ever since childhood I had wanted to be in politics and do something significant. I had reached that point, but it had all crashed down around me and I was in prison,” recalled Colson. He remembered sitting in his cell, sure that he would never again have the chance to do something important, but admitted that he had underestimated the power of God. He pointed out the successes that Prison Fellowship has achieved in 88 countries around the world, with 50,000 volunteers and more than half a million children receiving Christmas presents through the Fellowship’s Angel Tree program since its beginning in 1975. Colson explained that God is not looking for our accomplishments, but for our brokenness.
“God used my one failure, the one thing I couldn’t glory from, for my achievement,” said Colson. “What God wants is not the great things that we can accomplish but our obedience for Him to work through.” Despair is a sin, Colson explained, because it denies the sovereignty of God. “You should never quit – be not afraid. God is sovereign. He will often use that in your life which you least expect for His greatest accomplishment.”
According to Colson, 50% of the people who voted in the last election said they voted for moral issues, 78% wanted a return to moral values, and 75% said they want faith-based solutions to public policy questions. He explained that the 60’s decade – known for flower children, the hippie movement and a view of life characterized by cheap drugs and free sex – has created a destructive culture people can’t live with.
“All of the promises of personal autonomy in the sixties has left us personally bankrupt in the nineties,” said Colson, who argued for a direct line between two defining moments in America’s history – Woodstock in 1969 and the Columbine shootings in1999.
“People are saying to themselves that we want something better – and who’s going to give it to them?” questioned Colson. “Only the church offers a view of life and reality that people can live with and you and I are the ones that can present that to a world which is increasingly hungry.”
|Colson was presented with an honorary Doctor of Humanities by President David S. Dockery during the Spring 2001 graduation ceremony.|
“Two-thirds of all Americans say there is no such thing as truth, and 60 percent of evangelical born-again Christians agree. But there is truth, there is ultimate reality, and we find it in Biblical revelation. We are the custodians of it and the ones who can make a difference but it means we have to start thinking differently.”
Colson said Christians need to start thinking differently and stop acting like sheep, enjoying their worship services but never thinking about their faith and the impact it has on the world.
“You guys getting out of here can make a difference if you will use your minds. Think as a Christian, and you will realize that Christianity is more than John 3:16,” Colson told the graduates. “It is more than the cross, it is more than our salvation, though it is never less than that.”
Colson explained how the Bible answers all of the fundamental questions of where we come from, why we live with sin, and what our purpose is. He said it is imperative that we have a biblically-informed worldview, “that enables you to see all of life and then act upon it,” said Colson.
Christian truth can be brought to bear in a couple of ways, according to Colson.
“You can contend for truth apologetically – always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that is within you but with gentleness and reverance.”
The second way is by living out one’s faith.
“If we do the gospel and people see it, all of the other arguments fade away,” explained Colson. “If we want to overcome the resistance that we find in society today, you must go and do the gospel and let them see it, and they will be drawn to you.”
The third and final point Colson made was that Christians need to do their duty. He told of visiting the Czech Republic in 1991 just after the Velvet Revolution. He talked with a priest who had been instrumental in leading the people toward non-violent democratic reforms.
Before their visit was over, Colson told the man what a hero he was to himself and others in the West. The priest replied that he was no hero: “a hero is someone who does something he doesn’t have to do. I just did my duty.”
“My whole idea on Christian service has changed,” Colson announced to the graduates. “It’s not heroic – I don’t have any choice. Gratitude is the mother of all virtues and if we really understand what God has done for us, then we have no choice – we are compelled to serve Christ with everything we have – to do our duty out of gratitude for what He has done.”
Sara B. Horn,