We all strive to live an extraordinary life. Christian or not, we all want to have a legacy that challenges, inspires and awes people long after we are dead. People often find extraordinary ways to achieve this with mixed results.
As a Christian, I find inspiration from the extraordinary lives of Biblical characters and it never ceases to amaze me that there is always a pattern to an extraordinary life: a specific circumstance of birth, which may be elevated or not, such as Moses, Joseph, Paul; a time of preparation, which again may or may not be privileged by birth or earned through hard work; a spectacular failure or fall and then a triumphant end.
Of course Jesus is the epitome an extraordinary life, even if you don’t believe in him as the son of God. The fact that people were willing to spread a ‘rumour’ that he rose again surely shows that his impact was so great that his followers refused to believe he died!
I am a great believer in the bible. You might think that is obvious because I’m a Christian, but even Christians sometimes have trouble with bible stories, the obscurity of the culture, the fact that is was written so long ago and even the poetic language sometimes gets in the way of the deep abiding message it contains. So God being merciful, sends us modern-day characters, whose lives we can look at and say, yes that was definitely, a life less ordinary.
Charles Colson, special counsel to the beleaguered former US President Richard Nixon, who died yesterday at age 80, is in my opinion, one of those people. In reporting the news of his death, the Telegraph, described him as an evangelist and says he, ‘founded the Prison Fellowship Ministries, a $50 million charitable organisation established to bring Christ to the inmates of the world’s penitentiaries.’
Personally, he came to my attention when I picked up his book Born Again, which I read, many years ago as a young Christian, where he recounts his encounter with God after his troubles with President Nixon over the Watergate scandal, which caused an upheaval in the Nixon administration with which he was intimately involved. The book was candid and starkly forthright about the things he was willing to do to obtain and stay in power and what it felt like to go from having breakfast with the most powerful man in the world to serving a prison sentence.
His misdeeds, as special counsel to President Nixon caused him to plead guilty to obstruction of Justice and receive a sentence of one to three years in prison of which he served seven months. A lawyer, by profession, he was described as Nixon’s ‘hatchet man’ and was said to be willing to do anything to ensure the re-election of President Nixon. He was said to have hired thugs to beat up anti-war demonstrators and leaked information to the press concerning people he considered Nixon’s enemies.
Looking over his life’s achievements, which are many and varied, after his spectacular conversion which invited ridicule from some, what comes across clearly is the sovereignty of God and his power to transform any life and then use it to transform others.
As well as the Prison Fellowship, to which he donated the proceeds of all his speaking engagements, he was also an advocate for the Christian world view and maintained an engagement in political life until his death. Time Magazine named him one of the 25 most influential evangelical Christians in America, he was awarded 15 honorary doctorates and President George w. Bush awarded him the Presidential Citizens Medal in 2008. He wrote and collaborated on more than 30 books including Born Again and The Body, which had a profound impact on my view of the Body of Christ as a single entity influencing the world.
His life is a challenge to anyone who thinks they have a handicap to achieving what they were born to be, because his spectacular fall from grace didn’t deter him from changing the world because he understood the grace of God.
His life reminds me of what Paul and what he says in the second letter to the Corinthians, ‘In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life.’
May be this is why the Telegraph says of him, ‘Colson was reputed to have said that he would walk over his own grandmother to get Nixon re-elected. Now, he would do the same to bring a soul to Jesus.’