Ravi Zacharias has not been one of those preachers/apologists I have closely followed or admired BUT I did appreciate him and his teaching when I would come in contact with it. So, I happily endorsed and recommended his teaching whenever anyone asked me about him. I personally benefited from many of his insights in sermons, lectures and podcasts.
That’s why it was a heavy shock to me when I heard the late Ravi Zacharias accused of sexual misconduct. While a final report is forthcoming Ravi Zacharias International Ministries has confirmed the legitimacy of these claims. RZIM enlisted the services of Independent investigators to confirm these allegations and has accepted their initial findings. You can read about those findings HERE.
Obviously, this is perplexing and we want to know how not to despair. What are we to think? In what categories do we put these horrendous situations? I offer the following as my own process of grieving as I watch this from a distance.
When admired preachers fall we should:
1. Weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15).
Something that often comes from situations like this are attacks on the faith that the disgraced preacher preached. So, one natural instinct of the remaining faithful is to “man the barricades.” While it is right and good to defend the faith we have to remember that the faith we defend also calls us to weep and grieve with victims of abuse. Should the allegations prove wholly true (and right now it’s looking that way) our first impulse should be to join in the grieving.
2. Don’t comment on what we don’t know. This is a very public scandal but just because a lot of people know about it, doesn’t mean that the same amount of people have the same amount of information. So, wisdom demands we don’t comment on what we don’t know. “The wise lay up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool brings ruin near” (Proverbs 10:14). The reality is that this could have been worse than what’s reported or better or one big ruse to discredit a godly ministry. All we can comment on is what we know. Stick to what we know. When scandals hit the body of Christ, we don’t let our mouths wander into places ahead of evidence.
3. Every sincere believer should feel like they’re being warned when an admired minister falls. When a man falls to ruin everyone “who thinks he stands should take heed lest he fall.” No one is so smart, so accomplished, or so gifted that they become immune to temptations or snares. God’s word tells us that the sins of others are a warning that call the believer to run and escape from temptation through faith.
“11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:11-13 ESV).
4. Pray for other ministers to keep trusting in the gospel and growing in holiness.
The body of Christ should be stirred up to pray for ministers, preachers, evangelists, and pastors to be kept pure and undefiled in a world racked with temptation. Again, no one is so gifted they can’t fall. This was the major lesson in Samson’s story. Two things are flashing in neon lights throughout Samson’s story. (1) He was authentically gifted by God and (2) he was beset with lusts that cost him his life. Every minister of the gospel needs your prayers so that their gifts aren’t wasted.
5. Remember that what Ravi Zacharias is accused of is more consistent with what he preached against.
In other words, the faith Ravi preached about condemned Ravi’s alleged actions. The faith Ravi claimed, practiced consistently, calls believers to confess and renounce their sins – even if it costs them their ministry.
If these allegations are in fact proven true, they would be actions wildly out of sync with the Christianity he professed. Further, his actions would actually be perfectly consistent with the Atheism he preached against.
To borrow an illustration: Let’s say you have a dour, grumpy Sunday school teacher and, across the street is a bubbly, generous atheist. Which one is being more inconsistent with their professed beliefs? Well, it’s the grumpy Sunday school teacher. The atheist is being inconsistent also – just not to the degree that the Sunday school teacher is. The atheist shouldn’t be bubbly (after all, he’s going to spend eternity not existing after tasting all these good created things) but far more inconsistent is the Sunday school teacher who knows (or should know) she’s going to spend eternity tasting the goodness of God. What has she got to be grumpy about?
My point: the actions of a preacher who abuses others is not consistent Christianity. It’s actually consistent atheism. It’s consistent atheism because these actions are performed as if there is no judgment. No good and moral Law-giver. So, no matter who the abuser is, the abusive actions are not reasons to renounce Christianity. They’re still reasons to renounce atheism.
6. Remember the Gospel
At the end of the day, Christianity remains unique and beautiful because its beauty does not rest on the shoulders of its adherents. It rests on the shoulders of a crucified and risen Christ. Christianity makes sense because Christ makes sense. Christianity is worthy of believing because Christ is worthy of believing. Christianity remains the one shining hope of every fallen man, preacher or not, because it is a hope that depends entirely on the performance of Jesus who died for every sinner.