By Bob Bunn
He was a “hatchet man” and a “dirty tricks artist.” As special counsel to President Richard Nixon, Charles Colson proudly wore the label of “administration villain,” taking on the jobs that no one else was willing—or able—to tackle. He was addicted to power and would do almost anything to maintain that power, even if his actions placed him on a slippery ethical slope.
So, it was no surprise to many that Colson eventually ended up on the wrong side of a criminal investigation. What did surprise them was how he responded. Instead of fighting the charges, Colson rejected his lawyers’ advice and pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. That led to seven months in an Alabama prison.
But Colson knew something that others failed to realize. He had been set free before he ever entered the gates of Maxwell Prison in 1974.
Several months earlier, Colson had accepted Christ as his Savior, and part of his spiritual transformation included taking responsibility for his actions. In the end, his time behind bars led to a new calling. Following his release in 1975, Colson established Prison Fellowship, a ministry that shares the gospel with incarcerated men and women around the world. In an incredible turn, the man who chose prison spent almost four decades sharing the path to ultimate freedom with other prisoners.
The truth had set Charles Colson free, and he kept sharing it until his death in 2012.
Jesus talked about how the truth sets people free in John 8. Spending time at a Jewish festival, He sparked a lively debate with religious leaders who didn’t like Him much and didn’t appreciate being told that they were slaves to sin. While Charles Colson shared the truth with tough audiences in physical jails, Jesus faced an even tougher challenge of convincing spiritual prisoners that He was their only hope for freedom.
Truth is, all of us are born into slavery to sin. It holds us captive, no matter how much we deny it. We can pretend the chains don’t exist because we can’t see them with our eyes, but they are really all the same. Even after we accept Jesus as Savior, addictions and fears can tie us down. Without His help, we’ll never find the freedom we crave.
Of course, culture has many ideas about finding “freedom,” but those answers only lead us deeper into bondage. That’s because earthly solutions are rooted in passing philosophies and temporary treasures. That ship has no anchor, so it just drifts from one idea to the next.
In contrast, Jesus grounded His message in the truth of the gospel, the good news that His death pays the price for our sin. When we accept Him, His truth sets us free once and for all (John 8:36). He offers more freedom than culture could ever provide—and more than we can ever imagine.
But it starts with the truth. As Charles Colson discovered, His truth breaks our chains. His truth sets us free.