Many of us at EACF have read, listened to, and claimed benefit from the teachings of the late Ravi Zacharias. His ministry of apologetics (defending the Christian faith) and teaching has many supporters and fans. The recent report and open letter from the ministry's international board (note: parts of this report include descriptions of sexual behavior), revealing misconduct by the late Christian leader, leave me saddened. Here are a few thoughts for us to consider in response. I invite you to dialogue with me as we process these details.
1. Pray for the victims. When a public figure falls, we sometimes think of that person's behaviors, loss of standing, and ensuing difficulties and lament the fallout. But we too often forget or neglect the actual victims of the person's transgressions. Ravi's sins had and have victims. In this case, there are women, and we are not sure how many, who were preyed upon, assaulted/raped, and manipulated by Ravi. What can be done for them? Believe their stories. Mourn with them. Pray for them. Pray that the steps taken by RZIM, including taking counsel from victim-advocate Rachael Denhollander, will be helpful.
2. Pray for the Church. When a public and esteemed leader fails us, we can pretend his was an isolated case or we can try to mitigate the blow to our trust in our leaders and (informal) institutional faith. He was held up in high regard; he was a hero and champion of the faith. He brought faith into conversation with intellect and he won. We have seen this happen with other fallen leaders, where people try to minimize the severity of the sin by highlighting the positive impact someone has had. We need to stop worshiping idols.
While still hoping for God to work in our midst, how do we resolve this tension? The Christian church should never pretend our leaders are infallible or are incapable of sin. The Gospel teaches us the opposite: all men/people have sinned and all are only saved by the grace of Jesus Christ. There is never a day on this planet when we are not simul justus et peccator, simultaneously righteous and sinner. The Bible also teaches us that we are not to hide our weaknesses but make them known (2 Corinthians 12), confessing our sins to one another (James 5:16). It is our sin nature that makes demigods out of our Christian leaders. It is the sin nature of our leaders that make ourselves controllers or abusers of those under our care (1 Peter 5).
Any man or woman who is used by God to bless others is able to do so only out of the grace of God. Ravi was used by God to bless many, and those were real blessings. But Ravi was never more than a man. God can speak through a donkey (Numbers 22) or wield a pagan king for his purposes (Isaiah 45). Pray for God's Church to continue to humble ourselves and recognize our need for His grace and His Spirit to lead us.
3. Pray for faith. Ravi was probably one of the smartest men I'd ever heard speak on Christianity. Yet despite all of his knowledge and acumen in areas of theology, philosophy, and so many other subjects, Ravi was still capable of great sin. His knowledge did not save him. His knowledge could not sanctify him. Only God can save us. And only the Holy Spirit can sanctify us, driving out our sin and transforming us to be more godly. Each of us must humble our hearts and minds before the Lord and before one another.
This sad situation reminds us that only God has to power to save us from our sin and all its devastating impact. I tremble at the severity of this situation. I do not know where Ravi's soul is right now, and that is a scary truth. He did great things for Christ, but none of those can save him. Did he confess and repent of his sin, of these particular sins? We have no evidence to that, actually quite the opposite. That is devastating.
"This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith." - 1 Timothy 1:18-19 ESV
It is possible that some never truly give up their sin to Christ, despite superficial (visible) actions that seem to indicate membership in Christ's Church. But sin runs deceitfully deep.
Grace can run deeper. I have faith that God is greater than man. We show all the time that we set the bar pretty low for that to be true, but God shows us that as wide and as deep as the depravity of man is, the love of Jesus reached just as far (Ephesians 3:14-21). God can heal us. God can change us. God can bring grace to cover over our pain. But we must let Him into every dark corner of our souls. We must let the Spirit have ownership. We must let God work in us. May He do so now.
Kyrie eleison! Lord, have mercy!
Email me at email@example.com if you want to discuss this or need prayer.