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About The


Ethics & Religion
Column #1911
(third of a 3-part series)
7 Men - And The Secret of their Greatness
By Mike McManus

This is the third of three columns on a book by Eric Metaxas, 7 Men - And the Secret of Their Greatness. Here I spotlight Pope John Paul II and Charles Colson.

I report their stories to exemplify the importance of moral leadership. We live in an era with few moral leaders.

Pope John Paul, born Karol (Charles) Wojtyla in Poland in 1920, became the first non-Italian Pope in 456 years. He was only aged 58. He spoke 12 languages, was athletic, often seen on ski slopes, and had a friendliness - even sunniness - plus optimism and humor that made him refreshing. As Metaxas puts it, "He seemed fun and full of life."

When elected Pope, he spoke to the crowd in Italian: "If I make a mistake in...your, our Italian will correct me." That drew laughter. Part of his greatness was his extraordinary ability to communicate humbly, humorously and clearly.

However, in 1981 he was shot four times by an assassin and lost nearly three-quarters of his blood. He thanked God for not only saving his life, but for allowing him to join the sick who were suffering in the hospital.

"This man seemed to know the true secret of greatness," writes Metaxas. "He had not sought greatness and had not sought power, but both had come to him as he focused his attention and energy, as Christ taught, on those who were least able to reciprocate."

He was also brave and heroic - traveling to Poland where he publicly stood up to the Communists, and encouraged the fledgling Solidarity free trade movement led by Lech Walesa. He became one of the key figures in the collapse of Communism across Europe.

The Pope contracted Parkinson's disease at the end of his life. Yet he took an unyielding stand against the use of human embryonic stem cells - though physicians said it might lead to a cure for Parkinson's.

Billy Graham, America's most prominent evangelical, said Pope John Paul was "the strong conscience of the whole Christian world." He praised the Pope's "compassion and sympathy for the oppressed and above all, his vision of how Christians collectively are supposed to live. He is the greatest single leader of the twentieth century."

Chuck Colson became known as a "notorious Watergate hatchet man," when he worked in Nixon's White House.

Growing up in Boston, he turned down Harvard's acceptance to attend Brown where he graduated with honors and a Marine Corps commission, which took him to Korea and Guatemala. He graduated from George Washington University Law School with honors.

Colson became involved in politics in 1948 at age 17 where he learned dirty tricks, like planting fake news stories. He became involved in the 1968 presidential campaign, working hard to elect Richard Nixon. Afterwards Nixon appointed him special counsel. That was the ultimate prize. At age 38 he had the ear and confidence of the world's most powerful man. In 1972, he helped Nixon get re-elected with brilliant and underhanded maneuvering.

But as the Watergate scandal mushroomed, Nixon concluded Colson was a liability and fired him. He rebuilt his law practice. One client was Raytheon, led by CEO Tom Phillips who told Colson he accepted Christ at a Billy Graham Crusade, and "everything has changed." Colson was uncomfortable with such talk.

Meanwhile, Watergate exploded when an aide revealed that Nixon had secretly taped White House conversations. Suddenly reporters and cameras were stationed at Colson's home. That prompted him to seek out Tom Phillips who considered his life empty despite his business success - before accepting Christ.

Colson was skeptical, but Phillips said Colson's pride had corrupted him, and led to his frightening situation. Phillips read John Chapter 3, where Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be born again. Colson later wept in his car, and gave his life to Christ.

Watergate tapes were released that revealed Colson's lying and nastiness. Prosecutors got him to confess to something that landed him in prison. There he shared his story with other prisoners - which began something wonderful. Suddenly Colson was zealous to make an impact for God in prison. He prayed with one man who desperately need a parole, and it was granted the next day.

When Colson was paroled, he heard an almost audible voice, telling him, "Take the prisoners out, teach them, return them to prison to build Christian fellowships. Spread these fellowships through every penitentiary in America."

That's how Prison Fellowship began, where 11,300 volunteers now lead classes for 26,000 inmates. Colson wrote his first book, Born Again, that led to a radio program, Breakpoint, listened to by 8 million people.

Read Eric Metaxas's book of great men who exemplify high moral leadership.


Copyright (c) 2018 Michael J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. To read past columns, go to Hit Search for any topic.

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