Anyone who knows me well (or maybe not even that well) knows I greatly admired Ravi Zacharias. So when I saw the report in December, saying an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct had turned up evidence to confirm the allegations, I knew I’d be writing this post. I’ve waited a while since the final report was released to give myself time to process.
Before I go further, I want to say that I have seen several people talking about if this is true, if he did this, and so forth. And that’s fair. Such behavior is in no way congruent with the Ravi Zacharias we knew. But after reading the full report, I do not doubt that he did engage in sexual misconduct. I find the electronic evidence—photos, money trails, etc.—to be very convincing and corroborative of the victims’ testimony.
I have long respected Ravi’s intellect. His mind was absolutely brilliant. His command of language, especially a non-native language, could hardly be matched. I was inspired by how he taught that everything centered around the person of Jesus Christ, that even our deepest pain and hardest questions could find answers in Jesus and His Cross.
But my favorite thing about Ravi’s apologetic style was his skill at answering the questioner behind the question. Sometimes he barely even touched the question at all because a question can be a veil for the real dilemma in a person’s heart. And Ravi was always gracious and respectful, even when he preached with challenging honesty.
I’m nowhere near as smart as he was, but as someone who loved the field of apologetics, I respected, admired, and sought to emulate him. “Imitate me as I imitate Christ,” Paul said, and we Christians are always talking about finding good role models. I thought he was one.
When I first learned of the allegations, part of me was rolling my eyes. “Of course, now that he’s dead, let’s try to smear his good name and destroy his ministry. He’s not even here to defend himself!”
But the apologist in me said, “You believe that the truth should always be upheld, always sought, never concealed. It’s only in finding and acknowledging the truth that you have any hope of doing anything about it.” So I was glad for the RZIM board’s decision to hire the investigators and encourage them to pursue whatever leads they uncovered.
I was angry back in December at the probability of sexual misconduct. I was furious when it was confirmed.
What happened to “all of our pain and all of our longings can only be satisfied fully in Jesus”? What happened to “humans have intrinsic, inviolable worth because they are created in the image of God”? What happened to “I couldn’t ask for a better wife than Margie”? (And, no, these are not direct quotes. They are summations from my comprehension of his writings.)
Even as I read the report, part of me wondered, “What’s the point? He’s dead. He can’t even repent. Why speak up now?” And then I got to the part where someone had spoken up while he was alive. Someone had even brought charges while he was alive. And instead of repenting, Ravi sued the woman for extortion and protested his innocence. So he had his chance, after all. (And no wonder no one else spoke up while he lived.)
My mom is a registered nurse with a minor in psychology. It was helpful to talk things over with her, as she graciously said there may have been an explanation for why this behavior suddenly appeared ten to fourteen years ago. There’s no evidence for it prior to that, so why all of a sudden? Maybe his back pain got to him, and he found that massages were a lot more effective with some of those intoxicating brain chemicals from sexual behavior. Maybe once he started, he became addicted to the thrill of getting away with it. And maybe once he was in it, he knew he’d be crucified if he tried to repent, so why bother?
We’ll never know for sure how or why it started. We can take a pretty good guess at why it never stopped.
But, even if we did know, ‘twould be only an explanation. Not an excuse.
He sinned against numerous women. Exploited them for his own personal satisfaction. Did a really good job of it, grooming them as a mentor before he asked favors. Kept his online doings very secretive for “privacy” so he could continue his sin undetected.
It was deliberate.
And I’ll be the first to say the devil can mess up your mind badly. Sometimes before you know it’s happened. And Jesus said sexual sin happens in the mind, and we aren’t even supposed to let that happen.
But this wasn’t just in his mind. It was physical, between him and other people.
He didn’t cross a line. He crossed a twelve-foot concrete wall with barbed wire running along the top.
Some things in life are complicated. One I’ve wrestled with, for instance, is “Where is the line between kind support and enabling?” That one, and many others, are easy to handle wrongly.
But sexual sin? Like, physical sexual sin? The kind that actually involves the other person? Baby, that one is as clear as a cloudless winter sky.
If it’s not between a man and his lawful wife, you don’t touch. You don’t look. You don’t open your mouth (or your keyboard) and harm the other person with whatever sexual struggle is in your head.
It’s that simple.
And no, I’ve never been in love, never even had a serious boyfriend. But I’m a healthy twenty-something with hormones. I’m not completely blind.
God has put it really, really clearly in His Word. We might be all kinds of messed up in our heads, struggling, sinning in our minds, even enjoying the effects of that sin. Maybe unable to discern anymore the difference between the temptation and the actual mental sin.
But even so, there’s still that concrete wall. You don’t touch. You don’t look.
That’s what makes it hard for me, why I was so angry. All his life, this man preaches that following Jesus is the only way to satisfy the human heart, soul, and mind. And he deliberately trespasses one of the plainest commandments of Jesus.
Sexual sin is almost the oldest in the book. But it still works. Oh, how it works, brother. The devil doesn’t have to be creative, coming up with new ways to tempt us, because the old ways still work flawlessly. A man and a ministry and an unnumbered amount of victims wounded and destroyed by sexual sin. Beautiful war tactic, you have to admit.
So now that I’m furious because I feel betrayed by someone who taught one thing and lived another, do I just write him off?
I’m tempted, believe me.
But then there’s that whole David and Bathsheba thing. Kill a guy so you can steal his wife, whom you’ve already impregnated. Wanna talk about sexual misconduct?
But David repented and God still called him “the man after God’s own heart.” Maybe Ravi repented before he died.
A former pastor made a very thoughtful post on Facebook about this. He points out, fairly, I believe, that the Church has a tendency to do a lousy job in the area of sexuality. It’s like we think that after salvation, bang! no more sexual desire. And since we think we’re not supposed to have it, we have no clue how to handle it when it pops up in the wrong place. “What’s this? Oh, no! Suppress it, quick!” Then we’re shocked and shamed when it blows up and plunges us into sin.
(And don’t tell me the Church is a safe place to find help for this particular struggle. Sure, some close Christian friends, maybe. But get too honest with those nice folks filling the pews, and you’ll get tarred and feathered. But I digress.)
I don’t want to be guilty of crucifying Ravi Zacharias. I don’t want this to negate, in my mind, all the good he has done. I know we all sin. I know Ravi is God’s business way more than ours. The man has already faced God, for that matter. “To his own master he stands or falls.”
There is grace. So much grace from a God who sacrificed Himself to redeem us.
And yet sexual sin is such a massive trust-breaker, due to God’s design for sexual intimacy. It feels so big and vile and slimy.
What is there to say? The whole ugly mess may bring good if it turns our attention to how to prevent things like this. Starting with our own lives.
In the meantime, I grieve. And try not to think of it. And ask God, “If it could happen to Ravi, how can I stop it from happening to me?”
It’s not like this shakes my trust in the God Ravi preached about. For one thing, I worship God, not one of his followers. And even if Ravi did turn out to be a Pharisee for the last decade of his life, that doesn’t mean he didn’t know and speak the truth. God knows I don’t always live the truth I speak.
I probably won’t be too keen on reading his teachings from that decade, at least for a while. I’d have that suspicion in my mind that untruths were starting to slip into his teaching. But his earlier stuff, I think I’ll be able to read that. And the other great members of RZIM have phenomenal resources I will continue to enjoy.
But it hurts. It hurts badly. I believe with all my heart that sex and sexuality are sacred. If Christians can’t even get this sex thing right, who on this earth can?