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News and views from the German-language region of Europe

June 23, 2017

What once was, was once

Filed under Sabbath Thoughts

Politics can be a hard and sometimes dirty business. During U.S. President Richard Nixon's administration, one of his top advisors, Charles "Chuck" Colson, called himself "Nixon's hatchet man". The president could always rely on Colson, no matter the political objective was. Colson's misplaced loyalty got him a jail sentence for the obstruction of justice during the Watergate affair.

When Colson was about to be arrested, a friend gave him the book "Mere Christianity" by British theologian C. S. Lewis. The book had a profound effect on Colson, who became a born again Christian. At the time, political cartoons in American newspapers and magazines like "Time" made fun of his conversion, calling it a cynical ploy to get a reduced jail sentence.

Ater being released from prison, Colson founded the charitable organization "Prison Fellowship", dedicated to promoting the spiritual, moral, social and physical well-being of prison inmates, former inmates and their families. Today the organization is active in 110 countries and cooperates with more than 7000 local churches in promoting its goals. Colson wrote more than 20 books and gave the profits to his organization.

Nearly 40 years after his conversion as a born again Christian, Colson died of a brain hemorrhage in April 2012. What did people remember about him when he died? One newspaper chose the following title for its article on his death: "Charles Colson, Nixon's hatchet man, died at age 80". A man whose faith had completely changed him and who lived the last half of his life accordingly was remembered for the four years of his life when he was a White House advisor to President Nixon.

Some people have a difficult time forgetting what others have done in their past. The one-time "hatchet man" for the Sanhedrin, the apostle Paul, encountered skepticism and fear when he began to preach in Damascus that Jesus was the son of God: "Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?" (Acts 9:21). He had the same experience three years later when he visited the church in Jerusalem.

Can you imagine that someone in the church some 40 years later would have referred to Paul as "Caiaphas' hatchet man"? That kind of reaction does not happen only about things prior to conversion. It can also apply to those who are called. A person called of God doesn't stop making mistakes. But with God's help, people can change. Then our viewpoint should be: What once was, was once. Let's look to the future instead of remembering a past long put behind someone.

With these thoughts I wish everyone a rewarding Sabbath!

Paul Kieffer's blog with personal insights and news from the German-language region in Europe.


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