Though his ministry merited many headlines, it was in reality a localized work. On many days, Colson visited prisoners. He preached to small groups. He heard the stories of people whose lives were considered ruined, and he told these people of hope in Jesus Christ and his gospel. He talked to national and global leaders, urging them to stand for what was good and true in the world. He solicited donations, answered e-mails, and did the hard, small, quiet work that every person must do in his or her vocation.
Colson was a strong leader, but he was not a super-Christian. He was an imperfect man. He had his flaws. He worked too hard, made his schedule too full, and sometimes spoke too strongly. But Colson never stopped working to advance truth and goodness. He wanted to instantiate these ideals in culture, to plant them, so that they would take root, grow up, and lend health to public life.
This kind of enterprise is never private. It is always public. Such work seeks the good of others, a commitment that necessitates breaking out of the solace of our own quiet lives and engaging our world with the gospel. This is crucial for us to understand. Young Christians are being told they need to keep their beliefs to themselves. We’re forcing our morality on other people, it is said, and that is wrong. We are told the very nature of moral judgments is out-of-bounds.
But our friends who say this fail to comprehend the irony of their words. They themselves make moral judgments. Even as our culture increasingly faults believers for speaking up on behalf of truth and goodness, it does the same. It is not morality that is the problem. Our culture is divided over which morality is best, and over which narrative is ideal.
What is really at stake today is not just morality. It is the good life. In all our public-square witness we are offering the world a picture of life as it is meant to be. We cannot perfectly capture God’s intention for our lives. But our moral vision, our gospel activism, and our cultural engagement do not exist for their own sake. They are parts of a whole—components of a bigger vision. We believe that God wants humanity to flourish. He has created a life filled with happiness and health that he describes and prescribes in Scripture. In short, the good life given us by God is a holy life. It has private and public dimensions. It is an existence committed to God in every facet of our beings. Life of this kind yields the joy for which we were made.
Owen Strachan is the author of The Colson Way: Loving Your Neighbor and Living with Faith in a Hostile World (Thomas Nelson, July 2015). He is a professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Visit www.TheColsonWay.com for more information.