Standing in the Gap

This city, Washington D.C., is in shock—and I am in awe. When I first heard of Promise Keepers’ plan for a mass rally on the National Mall, I confess I had doubts. I remembered, from my days in politics, the army of advance men it took to put on a major rally. A million men? Humanly impossible, I thought. Well, what happened on Oct. 4 proved beyond all doubt that God is sovereign and He works His will as He will. No human effort could have achieved this extraordinary outpouring of men. Even secular skeptics were astonished at what is being called the largest gathering in American history: more than a million and a half men, according to some estimates. Commentator Terry Mattingly called Stand in the Gap an "evangelical Woodstock." Mattingly is more right than he knows. Woodstock symbolized the worldview of the hedonistic sixties, with its focus on drugs and free sex. The Promise Keepers rally exemplified just the opposite. It was a testimony to the participants’ willingness to keep promises both to God and to their families. Stand in the Gap may well mark a new era—the repudiation of all that Woodstock has stood for in American life. But even more important than the numbers was the spirit of the men. Even jaded commentators were surprised by the participants’ behavior. One correspondent said he’d never seen the Mall so clean following a rally. Others were impressed at how loving the men were, even to the feminists trying to provoke a confrontation. Reporters moving through the crowd confessed on camera that they’d been deeply affected. The surer sign God was in charge was the shared spirit of repentance—repentance for a lack of unity in the body, for racial divisions, for denominational splits. This unity is a striking contrast to the way things usually work in Washington. I spent 20 years in politics in this city, and I know how strife-ridden it is. It’s full of little whirlpools of conflicting power bases—people filled with envy and distrust, conniving to gain power. In contrast, this army of Christians arrived in Washington with a single message: As Ephesians puts it, Christ is our peace. I don’t think anyone here will forget the sight of Native Americans, blacks, whites, Hispanics, Messianic Jews, and the handicapped standing together in prayer on the platform while more than a million men joined hands in front of them. What a testimony to this country! I hope President Clinton noticed. The president has appointed a commission to figure out how to bring the races together. Government agencies will spend millions trying to develop policies to bring about racial harmony. But, in one fell swoop, these Christians showed the world how its done. It’s done at the Cross—the only way in which people are ever transformed and reconciled. Of course, Washington will soon drift back to its old ways. Politicians will still bicker and pontificate and offer the usual political panaceas. But those who were exposed to last weekend’s rally will have in their minds an image they cannot shake: an image of men from all walks of life singing and praying together simply to show their love for God and for one another. I believe the ultimate message of this past weekend was: Take heart America. God has given us a sign. There is hope. It is in Christ.


Chuck Colson


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