The Colson Way
“I never got to meet Chuck Colson. I wish I had,” writes Owen Strachan, author of The Colson Way: Loving Your Neighbor and Living with Faith in a Hostile World. After reading this book, I was left with that exact same sentiment, I wish I had met Chuck Colson. And in a way, Strachan makes it feel as if you had met him. While the book focuses on Colson’s life, it is not entirely biographical in nature.
Strachan tells Colson’s story as a way to motive the reader to action. This book is as much about Colson’s life and his engagement with the culture through the lens of his Christian faith as it is about inspiring us to act in our communities in a similar manner. In regard to living one’s faith in the public square, Strachan sounds the alarm without being an alarmist.
Starting from the small beginnings of a prison outreach program, Colson built a sprawling international ministry who’s mission it was to minister the Gospel of Christ to the “least of these” regardless of who they were or where they were. Each chapter chronologically builds on the last as Strachan unfolds Colson’s life and ministry work for us, and within each chapter, Strachan briefly pauses and asks us to reflect on what we have just learned and what does this look like in our own life; in our own community.
A good example of this is in the chapter titled “Roots.” Strachan writes,
Prison for Colson was personal. Unlike many citizens, he could not conceive of it in the abstract. He had eaten the awful food. He had smelled the soiled air. He had heard the screams of men tortured, night after night, by nightmares that were no imagined drama but a rehearsal of everyday life. He did not disagree in the least with the belief that prisoners were sinners, corrupted and broken by their sin. But as a man of conscience and compassion, Colson also knew that every prisoner was a human being made in the image of God, invested with dignity, no matter what he or she had done. Because of this belief, he never failed to see the potential in any person.
This is instructive for us. If we want to minister grace to people, we can only gain perspective by entering into their situations. This will challenge us. IF we have nice lives, we will not find it easy to go into hard places. But doing so awakens us to the challenges before us. (64-65)
Strachan does not provide us a step-by-step manual on how to duplicate Colson’s efforts, that is not his purpose. He is simply a guide, showing us who Colson was and the legacy he left behind and then using that as a way to encourage us to live out our faith in a culture increasingly succumbing to secularization. Colson was a model of compassionate living while avoiding compromising his Christian beliefs and principles, Strachan paints the picture that we ought to go and do likewise. Evaluate your talents and gifts and put them to work to bring people to Christ. Strachan realizes that how that is accomplished will look different for each individual, but he uses the telling of Colson’s life as an accelerant to ignite that passion within us.
Colson’s was a life well-lived; Strachan invites us to live ours in a similar manner. Will you follow the Colson way?