I don’t often get the opportunity to drop celebrity names but I can when it comes to being influenced by and meeting Charles “Chuck” Colson. In 2006, my husband, Larry, came across an opportunity called Centurions Program founded and taught (among others) by Chuck Colson. It involved a year of guided study and two residencies in Virginia. Larry said he wanted to do it and I wasn’t about to be left out, so we both signed up and completed the program over the next year. It was a tremendous program which we both highly recommend.

As a part of the program, we met Chuck Colson and saw him interact with all of us in the class during the weekend residencies. It was such a privilege seeing his heart for the Lord and his passion to empower Christians to “learn how to live out their faith authentically and powerfully in the world and unite them in an ongoing and growing network of worldview movement leaders” (from the description of the program).

It seemed surreal to see this man as the gentle yet passionate man of God who was the infamous convicted felon from the Watergate days. Timothy George writes, “Chuck Colson himself never lost sight of the fact that he was a convicted felon. He also never lost sight of God’s gracious forgiveness through Jesus Christ. I believe history will recognize Chuck’s place in a very small group of men including Abraham Kuyper, Francis Schaeffer, and of course Lewis, as leaders most responsible for framing evangelical Christians’ thinking about our faith in relation to the world.”

When Mr. Colson gave Larry and I our certificate of graduation from the Centurion Program, he smiled his warm grin as if we were his only students. He truly could make you feel important and special in a moment.

As I thought of Mr. Colson’s legacy of being brought to salvation after “falling” in such a deep way, I thought of how there is always hope for any person, no matter how great their sin.

In 1998, the radio airwaves were filled with the talk of the soon execution of Karla Faye Tucker who was convicted for killing a woman with an axe. While in prison awaiting execution, Karla Faye became a Christian and many thought she should be given clemency. As I listened to one radio talk show, one woman called in and then vehemently exclaimed, “Those Christians should be more careful about who they let into their Kingdom.”

I smiled. How wonderful that God’s Kingdom is available to Karla Faye Tucker, Chuck Colson, you and I because we don’t earn our place there, we are given its joys through an offer of a gift.

I’m privileged to have met Chuck Colson who walked in privileged circles. But I think Mr. Colson would say, “I’m privileged to have met Jesus Christ. And if I can become a Christian, there is hope for anyone.”