A Message From Chuck Colson: You Are a Symbol of Hope

Hi. I’m Chuck Colson. I’m glad to have this opportunity by way of this video to bring a message to all of you who are Colson Scholars at Wheaton. It’s a great honor that you have been chosen to have this scholarship at one of the great institutions in America. I might just tell you a little bit of background on how the Colson Scholarship came to be.

Many years ago, a couple of friends of mine who were on the board here at Prison Fellowship got together and decided it would be a wonderful thing if they set up a scholarship fund just for ex-offenders to come to the premier Christian institution, Wheaton. And so they started this fund and it was unnamed. They came to me and asked if I would let my name be used with it and I said no, because I really was against this idea of Christian celebrities having things named for them. What it does is to exalt man instead of exalting God. And so I really resisted. Then when the program got started, Ken Wessner, who was really the guiding force behind this, and Jack Eckerd, who was a member of this board, very successful businessman, between them they made this possible.

Wessner came to me, and he said, “You know, it would be a lot easier for those young men and women coming out of prison to be respected on the Wheaton campus if they had your name. So I thought about that and prayed about it for a good period of time. And I finally came back to Ken and said, “Yeah, if something’s going to be named for me, rather than a builder or rather than something that exalts the individual, I would like these men and women to be known as Colson scholars, because that means they’ve come from the broken background I came from. That means they know what it is to be broken in life. And they therefore know the grace and glory of God in ways that people who sit in church pews and have never experienced this do.”

And maybe it will help distinguish them on the Wheaton campus. And every time somebody looks at them, they will think about that rascal, Chuck Colson, the toughest of the Nixon tough guys, the White House Hatchet Man, reportedly said he would run over his own grandmother. That’s not true. But that scoundrel of the Nixon days, who was then converted, and then spent the rest of his life working in prisons. So maybe it will remind them of that. Maybe it will remind them of their responsibility as a Christian to live their faith out in a way that we’ve been doing through this ministry of Prison Fellowship, reaching out to hurting and suffering people.

But with that name goes a responsibility. I’m humbled by it, but I’m half tempted to say, “Well now, you guys, you men and women with those scholarships, had better do well, because you’ve got my name out there as well.” So my reputation’s on the line. But that doesn’t matter. What really matters is that you are bearing a witness for Jesus Christ on that campus and on behalf of the hundreds of thousands, 2.3 million people in prison in America today. You have been selected out, you have been called by God, you have been given an extraordinary privilege and opportunity. And a tremendous opportunity for witness on their behalf.

The thing that’s hard on me the most, in all these years that I’ve been a Christian, 33 years now, is the fact that I thought to myself, “If I mess up in one little way, everybody’s going to look back and say, ‘Oh, Colson. We knew this thing wasn’t real. We knew these Christians aren’t real. We knew these Christians; it’s just an act that they put on. It’s just a false kind of piety.'”

And I knew I could never make a single mistake. I couldn’t get angry at a ticket counter waiting for someone to wait on me. At all times, for the last 33 years, I have had to be extremely careful that I didn’t give anybody an excuse to question my sincerity in my conversion to Christ.

And one of the things that haunted me was the fact that when I left prison, I told those guys that we, in the dormitory I was in, Maxwell Prison in Montgomery, Alabama, I said, “I won’t forget you. I’ll do something.”

I didn’t know what I was going to do at the time. I didn’t feel called into ministry at that point, but I knew that I wanted to help the people that I’d come to know in prison.

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Source: Christianity Today