Read an Excerpt
Twenty-one years ago on January 31, 1975, I walked out of prison gates, free after seven months inside. But as a new Christian, I was unsure of the future, groping for God's will, trying to understand the tumultuous events that had brought me to this place.
I had surely known the heights and depths of life: from power, wealth, prestige, and an office next to the president of the United States to the confining walls of a dreary prison. But along the way I had made the most important discovery anyone can make.
That came about on a hot, sultry night in August, 1973. As the Watergate scandal was rocking the Nixon presidency and the nation, I---proud and self-assured on the outside, fearful and trembling within---visited a close friend, Tom Phillips, at his home. Phillips was a successful business executive and client who, I had learned, had had some kind of religious experience. That evening Tom told me of his encounter with Jesus Christ, how his life had been dramatically changed. I listened intently. I had never heard anyone talk this way. Though something stirred within me, I kept my emotions in check, too proud to let him know how I felt inside. I left my friend that night, promising only to read a little book which he gave me, Mere Christianity.
But in his driveway that night, the dam burst. I could not drive the car; I was crying too hard, calling out to God with the first honest prayer of my life. I sat there alone for a long time---but not alone at all.
From that day on, nothing about my life has been the same. It can never be again. I have given my life to Jesus Christ.
In that first year out of prison I published my autobiography, Born Again, which God used mightily. But I also wrestled with Him. I knew what had happened to me had been for a purpose. What was it? I longed to return to a quiet life with family. Business and law beckoned, but Patty and I dreamed of long walks in the woods, more time with the children, and above all, being out of the glare of the public spotlight.
But I couldn't. I knew my call was ministry to prisoners, and in the summer of 1976, six of us gathered for prayer, launching Prison Fellowship. Little did I dream that this ministry would spread around the globe---75 countries, 2,000 prisons in the U.S. alone, thousands of volunteers---to become the most massive outreach of the Gospel to 'the least of these,' prisoners and their families.
In those early years I yearned to grow, to know the fullness of the Christian life. I studied under the guidance of godly scholars such as Professor Richard Lovelace and Dr. Carl Henry. I read voraciously. But I was perplexed that Christianity seemed to be having so little impact on modern life. What was it, I asked, that God really wanted from His people? How should we live? And it was out of this struggle, as I've explained in the following introduction, that I wrote the book you are about to read, Loving God.
Few things God has done in my life have surprised me as much as this book. At the outset I had modest ambitions: It might reach some serious believers, maybe stir them to a more disciplined life, I hoped. But instead the book went through XX printings, was translated into twenty languages, over a half-million copies have been sold in the U.S., hundreds of thousands more distributed by the Billy Graham Association, and countless hundreds of thousands more overseas, reaching Europe, China, Korea, much of Africa, all of Latin America, and even behind the former iron curtain.
Over the thirteen years since this book was published, I have been humbled by the thousands of letters it has prompted from people in every station of life---from prime ministers to prisoners. The message is always the same: The writers' lives had been deeply affected. Some became believers; others discovered the true meaning of being a Christian---to love God and to love one another.
No letter touched me more deeply than one smuggled out of the then Soviet Union in 1990 and sent to the minister who had translated the book into Russian:
'You sent your book, Loving God to us, but for a whole month the prison authorities would not release it to us. When we found out about its existence, we complained to Moscow, and finally we were allowed to read this book. In our camp there are about 3,000 prisoners, and everyone has read your book. In actuality, every evening someone would read aloud while 15 to 20 others listened. It's good that you wrote about the author, Colson. When we learned that he too had been in prison, we understood that he knew the meaning of freedom. In other words, we who hated and thought that such feelings were experienced by all people, learned that it was possible to learn to love God and other people. ...'Semyon Gorokhov
Valentin Sukonin and the other 3,000 prisoners
12 June 1990
Still burned in my consciousness is the picture of Russian prisoners huddled around a single candle in a cold, barren prison camp, reading the words of this book. I couldn't help but think back on my years in the White House, when every effort was engaged in trying to affect Soviet policy. What I accomplished was nothing compared to what God had done through the pages of this manuscript, delivering one copy into a Russian prison.
So I am overjoyed at Zondervan's decision to reprint this book. The need for its message is as great today, maybe greater, than when it was first published thirteen years ago. Then the forces of secularism were on the ascendancy, American culture was in the grips of selfish individualism and empty consumerism; Christian values were in retreat. Since then, however, the culture war has only intensified; postmodernism---the belief that there is no truth and no God---is dominant among secular elites. Christianity has been driven to the margins of society. So never has the need for Christians to be serious about their faith been greater, and never has the message of this book been more urgent.
I pray that as you read through the pages that follow, God will touch your life and you will discover what those Russian prisoners did---that even in the ugliest of times and in the ugliest of circumstances, it is possible to love God and other people.