A few thoughts. Many sins.
The final report on Ravi Zacharias’s sexual misconduct is out and it’s devastating. I actually only skimmed it because the verdict is in – he’s definitely guilty – and I don’t need nor want to know all the sordid and salacious details. What I did read was enough to confirm my profound grief and disappointment over the serious moral failures of such an influential Christian.
I listed some pertinent realities in my response to the initial report which came out in December from Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM). I’d like to mention a few more now.
- Ravi’s duplicitous, sinful behavior has not shaken my faith in God one iota, because it’s based on his revelation in creation, conscience, and the reliable documents that make up the Bible, and in the perfect Man whose name is Jesus. Not in any sinful, imperfect man no matter how well-known or well-respected his name. This revelation is a warning to all of us that we need to know and follow Christ, not any Christian.
- Some decent and moral atheists in comparing themselves with an unfaithful and even sexually abusive Christian apologist will say, “See, you don’t need God to be good.” And that’s true. But what they often don’t get is that you do need God to judge any deed to be objectively right or wrong. Apart from a transcendent arbiter, Ravi Zacharias’s sexual and marital infidelities may be hurtful to his family and others, but they’re not objectively wrong.
- Ravi had a very winsome and engaging personality coupled with a keen intellect, which I suspect was instrumental in his undoing. He was so well-loved and admired, he likely came to feel that sexual favors were gifts he could expect and accept in return for all that he gave of himself. The accolades and attention he received surely spawned and sustained the sin of vanity, which so often leads to destruction.
- Sin thrives in darkness and withers in the light. If Ravi had confessed to his wife and ministry staff his first instance of sexual misconduct he would have been much less likely to repeat it, and his marriage and ministry would have been preserved and even strengthened by his repentance and transparency. Christian apologist Clay Jones wrote a compelling plea for keeping short accounts with God and others titled Sexual Misconduct and Keeping a Good Conscience. I commend it to everyone tempted to any kind of sexual sin.
- If a man with such learning and training in Christian ministry, immersed in Christian concepts and culture, and surrounded by Christian family, friends, and colleagues could sin so despicably and hide it so successfully, what must countless others of influence outside the Christian community be doing and hiding?
I close again with thoughts of Ravi’s family. He’s gone but they will bear this hurt, this grief, this stain their entire lives. In selfishly satisfying himself, Ravi Zacharias did irreparable, lifelong damage to those closest to him.
If only before we allow the seed of sin to take root in our lives, we could first foresee its bitter fruit.
NOTE: Some will notice that I removed the link to RZIM on my sidebar after saying last time that I had no plans to do so. I decided that although the ministry provides an excellent and reliable storehouse of truth about God and life, the latest revelations about its founder taint it with a stain of sin and duplicity such that its trustworthiness has been compromised. Massively bitter fruit.
Good write-up on this devastating (indeed) news. I think the RZIM board’s updated open letter is properly contrite and it appears they’re heading in the right direction of making amends and changes, but at best it will be a long and painful process and they will have much work to do to actually make those amends and prove they are worthy of being listened to and supported. My heart breaks for the victims and Zacharias’s family, and for others that might now feel their faith in God is weakened or has been misplaced. The linked Clay Jones post is excellent for anyone tempted to sin (of any nature); thanks for sharing that.
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I’d be lying if I said that his actions didn’t bother me. In fact, they hurt me deeply. However, I choose to let it serve as a reminder that not a one of us is good. Jesus said it clearly, there is none good but God. I had tremendous respect for Ravi as an apologist, and I prayed for him when I learned of his illness, as I did when I learned of his death. This being said, the truth is that Ravi Zacharias was as flawed a human as any one of us. I’ve given my life to the Lord willingly, and His work in me has wrought tremendous changes, but I am nowhere near a finished work. It isn’t outside the realm of reason to supposed that Ravi may well be a finished work, for better or worse. As Voddie Baucham put it, I may not be who I ought to be, but hallelujah, I’m not who I was. I don’t see this as a blow to the Christian community, I see it as affirmation of the Lord’s saving grace.
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The way I see it, yes, we can use this sad story to affirm God’s grace in saving us though we still sin, but it still is “a blow to the Christian community.” Every time a Christian leader is exposed like this it brings DISgrace to God’s name and his people. Ravi’s many sins were primarily against God.
You do make a point. I keep going back to Psalm 51 these days as the prime example of repentance, and when he wrote it, king David did say that his sin was against God alone. My concern is that Christians will either decide that they are somehow morally superior to Ravi, or will cover themselves needlessly in sack cloth and ashes for what he did. It’s ok to mourn over the sins of other humans, but not ok to take it on ourselves.