By now you’ve surely heard that Chuck Colson went to be with the Lord April 21. Those of us who knew him are sad, thankful, and hopeful: sad that he is gone; thankful to have known him; and hopeful that we will be reunited with him one day.
Please continue to keep the Colson family and Prison Fellowship in your prayers.
Chuck’s passing, as you’d expect, has been covered in the press. Some of the coverage was pretty good, but none of it does justice to what my friend Rod Dreher rightly called “one of the great American public lives of the 20th century.”
So with your permission, I would like to spend some time re-acquainting you—or perhaps acquainting you for the first time—with the things that made Chuck Colson’s life so great.
A good place to start is with what, for me at least, is Chuck’s best book, Loving God. Other books may have better demonstrated Chuck’s intelligence and analytical skills, but none of them matched Loving God when it came to answering the question “How Now Shall We Live?”
“Loving God” was Chuck’s response to our culture’s increasing preoccupation with the Self. He saw people whose pursuit of celebrity, materialism, and success had not made them happy but, instead, “self-absorbed, frightened, and hollow.”
Their response to the failure was not repentance but to becoming even more preoccupied with the self. Even worse, the Church had bought into this same value system instead of showing a way out of the dead end of self-preoccupation.
That way out required replacing self-absorption with the love of God. That of course requires understanding what it means to love God. And for Chuck, the answer lay in what Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote: “Only he who believes is obedient; only he who is obedient believes.”
Loving God requires viewing our faith as a “living Person for whom we are willing to lay down our lives.” A “vibrant strong faith” is not “just knowledge but knowledge acted upon.” It is “not just belief but belief lived out.” Real faith, which is the cure to self-absorption and the way out of the prison we construct for ourselves, consists of “believing and act obediently regardless of circumstances or contrary evidence.”
I’ll never forget reading Loving God after I became a Christian. I had never read or heard anything quite like it. This is the stuff of transformed lives; this is the stuff of which a world turned upside down is made.
The thing is, Loving God is even more timely today than it was in 1983. It scarcely seems possible but our culture is even more preoccupied with the Self than it was thirty years ago. A survey of college students found that today’s student score significantly higher on the Narcissistic Personality Disorder than those of thirty years ago. At the same time, they are less likely to be happy.
Chuck’s message to the Church—that faith is inseparable from obedience and faithfulness—is every bit as essential today as when he wrote Loving God thirty years ago. It is part of his gift to us—a gift I will be telling you about over these next few weeks and one that I pray you will claim for yourself.
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