One of the great American public lives of the 20th century has come to an end.  This, from the WaPo story, explains why Colson’s redemption was so powerful:

A self-described “hatchet man” for Nixon, Mr. Colson compiled the notorious “enemies list” of politicians, journalists and activists perceived as threats to the White House. And most fatefully, he helped orchestrate illegal activities to discredit former Pentagon official Daniel Ellsberg, who was suspected of leaking a top-secret history of the Vietnam War to the New York Times and The Washington Post.

It was the targeting of Ellsberg — rather than Mr. Colson’s peripheral involvement in the growing Watergate break-in scandal — that eventually led to his conviction for obstruction of justice. In the midst of this crisis, Mr. Colson said he underwent a profound religious transformation in August 1973.

Acting against the advice of his lawyers, Mr. Colson pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, a step that he depicted as “a price I had to pay to complete the shedding of my old life and to be free to live the new.”

Notice that Chuck Colson didn’t claim to be a changed man, and that God had forgiven him, so why couldn’t the criminal justice system? He knew he was guilty, and accepted the punishment not only as just, but as something that needed to happen so he could be spiritually and morally free. And for Colson, his conversion wasn’t just personally therapeutic, but he spent the rest of his life helping people who had been like him: a prisoner, justly condemned for his crimes, but still loved by God, and worthy of redemption. RIP.