Ever since I was a boy, I was driven to serve my country. As a 10-year-old at the outbreak of World War II, I could only dream that one day I could put on a uniform and fight the enemy. But I did what I could. I organized a neighborhood drive to collect scrap metal for the war effort. Before I had reached 40 years of age, I had served as a captain in the Marines and as special counsel to President Nixon.
But beside my country, there was another cause I served wholeheartedly. That cause was me. Power, a great career, money, they were all mine. But then I lost them in the aftermath of Watergate.
And for that, I am profoundly grateful to God.
You see, with my world collapsing around me, I received Christ as Lord and Savior. And it was in the crucible of prison that God took my desire to serve my self and transformed it into something much greater. He gave me a desire to serve others—-particularly those who are abandoned by society, prisoners. I take no credit for this. None. Zero. I might as well take credit for the color of my eyes. It was God working His will in me, a great sinner.
I know all too well that since my release from prison more than 30 years ago, people have been watching me, to see if the old White House hatchet-man- turned-prison-evangelist would prove to be a phony.It puts a lot of pressure on me.
But I’ve got news for you. People are watching you, too! A weary world is watching with great skepticism all who profess Christ.
And that's one reason that we who “by grace have been saved through faith” must be about doing the “good works which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Read Ephesians 2:8-10). For it is through Christian acts of loving service—-especially to the more needy among us—-that the world will see the power and love of Christ, just as they see it in the prisons that we work in in our ministry.
History is full of examples. As plagues swept through ancient Rome, the wealthy pagans—even doctors—fled for their lives. But the Christians stayed behind to care for the sick and dying. That witness fueled the growth of the Church. Why was Mother Teresa beloved by religious and non-religious alike? Because she cared for the utterly destitute. It’s why, even in this, the most secular age ever, the Salvation Army is held in such high respect.
It’s that kind of selfless service that can bring even the most powerful man on earth to the verge of tears.
Let me explain.
In 2008 I received the Presidential Citizens Medal from President Bush. I did so on behalf of Prison Fellowship and the thousands of men and women, volunteers and staff, who make up this movement.
At the ceremony in the Oval Office, the President talked about what true redemption was. He told my family how he was with me when he met a prisoner—a convicted murderer—back in 1997 at our InnerChange Freedom Initiative in Texas. Then, five years later, the President received that very same man, Robert Sutton, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. I had brought him there with two other IFI graduates. Sutton told the President how the love of Christ, displayed through caring Christian volunteers, had transformed him. And at that point the President embraced him.
As the President told that story, tears came to his eyes, and tears to mine as well. That, my friends, is why we live to serve others. So the world may know that Christ is Lord.