Confounding The Wise

In last week's historic vote in the House to launch an impeachment investigation, the debate at times turned rancorous. The president's defenders were in high dudgeon over the matter of repentance. The president, they insisted, has said he's sorry. Isn't that enough? Let's move on. Well, while the press and politicians are debating repentance, God seems to be doing some unusual things to show us what true repentance means. And, as usual, He’s doing it far from the Georgetown salons and other gathering places of our secular elites. In the past month, Prison Fellowship has witnessed true repentance busting out all over— especially in places our elites seldom think about, never mind visit. One of these places is inner-city Washington. I recently received a letter from Pauline, an inner-city resident and a wonderful Prison Fellowship volunteer. About twenty years ago, Pauline told me, she had collected money intended for Prison Fellowship, but instead of directly giving it to the ministry, she gave it to a former inmate who, she later learned, had absconded with the money. Even though Pauline was at most guilty of poor judgement, it had been plaguing her. So she wrote me asking my forgiveness. And included in the envelope—a check to Prison Fellowship to make restitution. All three-hundred dollars—a lot of money for someone living in the inner city of Washington. Another case involved a prisoner who became a Christian though one of Prison Fellowship’s programs. This inmate had previously maintained his innocence despite his conviction. A case that was ten-years old. Well, recently that prisoner not only publicly confessed his guilt, he began the process of meeting with his victim’s family to seek their forgiveness and reconciliation. And then there's the extraordinary case of Daniel Crocker. Nearly twenty years after murdering a young woman in Kansas—he was on drugs—Crocker, who had never been suspected of the crime, turned himself in to Kansas authorities. I met Crocker's wife, Nicolette, and their two beautiful children last week. She, like her husband, is at perfect peace. Crocker said he had to make amends for his wrongdoing—even though it meant leaving his wife and children and facing a certain prison term. These three examples stand in stark contrast to the debate going on in Washington, and to the president who says he's sorry, but then tells his lawyers to fight the charges. Even the ones he admits to being true. Where is, as John the Baptist put it, fruit worthy of repentance? If you want to see what repentance looks like, you’re going to have to seek it far from the spotlight: You'll find it in inner-city neighbor-hoods, in trailer parks and in prisons. You'll see it in the stories of folks you never heard of and who have no worldly influence. That’s because, as the apostle Paul wrote, “...To shame the wise, God has chosen what the world calls foolishness, and to shame what is strong, God has chosen what the world calls weakness.” What that means is what it has always meant in God's history. It is the so-called “nobodies” that God uses to teach us what we truly need to know. It’s a reminder that our God is at work among his people, teaching us how we should live. And a reminder that even as our chattering classes pontificate—talking heads on TV telling us the latest beltway wisdom—that God's purposes will not be thwarted. In our tumultuous times, that kind of hope is something to hold on to.


Chuck Colson



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