Chuck Colson on Courage

Chuck had a vision for the Church: that it would be the Church. And, he had a vision for the Colson Center: that it would serve and equip the Church to fulfill her calling.


John Stonestreet

Chuck Colson

This week, the Colson Center has remembered our founder Chuck Colson on the 10th anniversary of his death. Though the Colson Center is part of Chuck’s outsized legacy, we are not a memorial organization. We’ve often joked that if the Colson Center were only about playing a tape recorder of Chuck’s commentaries, he would come back and haunt us from the grave.  

Chuck had a vision for the Church: that it would be the Church. And, he had a vision for the Colson Center: that it would serve and equip the Church to fulfill her calling. We’re still as committed to that vision as we were when Chuck was with us. 

I’m constantly amazed at how prescient Chuck was. He foresaw many things that have, since his death, become realities. Today, I want you to hear from Chuck Colson about the necessity of courage in this cultural moment:  

A critical question in the West today is, “Can freedom survive where virtue isn’t able to flourish?” A friend of mine who is a member of a good, strong evangelical church met with his pastor to urge him to get more involved in some of today’s worldview and cultural battles. The pastor drew back in his chair and said, “You know, I have one great regret about my ministry: that I got involved in the gay marriage debate. We lost several members over there.” My friend was speechless as I would have been. What do you say to somebody who denies the clear teaching of Scripture or who in this case stands up for it, but then regrets it? Where was this man’s courage?  

I wish I could say this was an isolated instance. It isn’t. Friends, we’re navigating through rough waters in the culture today, and we’re woefully unprepared. Oh, sure we have all kinds of information at our fingertips. Amazing technology, vast resources our forebearers could only dream of, but we’re lacking something far more important: character.  

That’s why on this two-minute warning and for the next few weeks I want to talk about the building blocks of character: the four classic Greek virtues and the three Christian virtues. Today, we’ll look at the first and I believe most important virtue, courage.  

Now courage is not a lack of fear. It’s the willingness to do what you have to do in the face of your fear. Courage, Jerry Root and Stan Guthrie note in their book The Sacrament of Evangelism, is the habit of saying yes to the right action, even at the risk of pain or loss. Courage never gives up. Courage sticks with the task until it’s done. Courage faces one’s fears and does the right thing in spite of them.  

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, of course, would be near the top of anybody’s list of courageous Christians. He had the courage to defy the Nazis at the cost of his life. On his last day, Bonhoeffer held a brief service for his fellow prisoners. A contemporary who was there describes the scene. It’s described in Eric Metaxas’ wonderful book Bonhoeffer, which I strongly recommend. Bonhoeffer hardly finished his last prayer when the door opened and two evil-looking men in civilian clothes came in and said, “Prisoner Bonhoeffer, get ready to come with us.” 

“Bonhoeffer drew over to me,” the man writes, “drew me aside, and he said, ‘This is the end, but for me the beginning of life.’” Bonhoeffer and countless martyrs like him through the ages had the courage to stand up to evil in the name of Christ and pay the ultimate price.  

Do we have the courage to lay it all on the line? Do we have the courage to speak out for traditional marriage when we know we’ll be called bigots and worse? Or would you have the courage to stand up at a school board meeting and speak against a curriculum that indoctrinates kids and sexual license? You’d have to prepare to be shouted down. Believe me, it takes courage to take an unpopular stand and risk our popularity, our reputations, and maybe even lose a few church members.  

Now I could be wrong, but the continuing assault on religious liberty is a test. If we lack the courage to defend our religious freedom, then we will lose all other freedoms as well. Remember this, however: It’s easier to summon up courage when you know someone has your back.  

I learned this well when I was a lieutenant in the Marines. I knew my men had my back and I had theirs—that they would have laid down their life for me. That inspired courage in me. I have to say, too, that when we act for goodness for truth, Jesus Christ has our back. He is the source of our courage, He who laid down His life for us. 

Ten years ago yesterday, Chuck Colson went to be with the Lord. We are grateful for his life, for the work of Christ to make Chuck a new creation, for his remarkable life of passion and leadership, and for the privilege of being part of his ongoing work and legacy.


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