On May 17th 2020, I wrote an article titled “Remembering Ravi Zacharias”, in which I paid my own tribute, following the passing of this world famous and well-respected Christian apologist.
It would be fair to say that he was someone who truly impacted me, for which I thank God, along with David Pawson and Jim Packer who also died in 2020, for the good. It would not be hyperbole to say when it came to defending the Christian faith from a philosophical as well as an apologetic perspective that Ravi might be put on par with C.S.Lewis. There I would have left it along with the observation he left a big gap that I hoped would be filled by them who take up “Elijah’s mantle”. That was until revelations of sexual misconduct started to be unveiled, to the extent these can no longer be denied.
It is not my intention to go though what amounts to all sorts of accusations or pass judgement on Ravi, who is no longer here to answer these allegations, but I can regretfully say this has had a big impact on his legacy, the ministry he helped to found and lead and the people who he influenced. This was brought home to me when listening to an interview that tried as far as possible to be fair and sympathetic with one of Ravi’s close associates, titled: “Processing the Ravi Zacharias sexual abuse scandal – with Dan Paterson”.
When we learn of major disappointments, which in this instance concerns someone we looked up to, who has repeatedly committed sexual sin against persons, presumably vulnerable, and which (it appears he did not repent over) our emotions are mixed, including anger, shock, bemusement and righteous indignation. During the period, which it is alleged covered a longish period of time, Ravi continued his amazing ministry, influencing many, including people like me who go into the market place arguing for the cause of Christ. It might be said, his was a case of cognitive dissonance, where (likely) he sincerely believed one thing and saw that it was his job to defend his beliefs and yet lived a life that contradicted these.
Rereading my tribute to Ravi, I won’t retract what I wrote at the time in good faith, other than my confidence, when he meets his Lord, he would be greeted with the words along the lines: “Well done good and faithful servant” for that is up to the Lord and it is a sobering thought we, like him, will need to give an account of our actions. One of the godinstances accompanying my writing this article is currently going through the Book of Proverbs. In the early chapters, the writer goes to great lengths to convince the reader of the need to avoid sexual sin with all its allures and promises of instant gratification etc. and to achieve that we need to seek after wisdom as our main priority. Not just with Ravi but many Christian leaders, and many more who weren’t, have been sexually compromised and have paid a heavy price. Additionally, I want to say something to those who are hurting and are puzzled:
- What Ravi did was very wrong and there is no excuse.
- We should not pin our hopes in man, however impressive his credentials, but rather in the Lord God Almighty.
- We should thank God for the good things Ravi did achieve and bear in mind he is no longer here to defend himself.
- Ravi is not the first Christian leader to have been found out for sexual misconduct and he won’t be the last. It is a good reason for strong accountability structures to deal with early warning signs.
- As Ravi will no doubt himself have recognised, the way a Christian lives when it comes to hypocrisy does not make that message irrelevant or untrue.
- We are all sinners and no sin can be excused, but it is not our place to deem one sinner more needful of judgment than another.
- We are all prone to stray and we do well to take the advice of the writer of Proverbs to guard our hearts and seek after wisdom.
- The work Ravi engaged in, Evangelism and Apologetics, is important and needs to continue.
- If we have been hurt because of Ravi, sexual abuse or countless other bad things that might have happened to us, it is well to remember that God is the great healer.
- Pray for Christian leaders, often put on a pedestal, and us to resist “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” and by God’s grace to overcome.
- Pray for the victims of Ravi’s crimes and his family and friends.
- The ministry Ravi was involved in has suffered a big blow. Pray for those still involved that they will be able to move on and present the gospel.