If you’ve seen the headlines from Christian publications, then you are aware that the late Ravi Zacharias, a very skilled Christian apologist, has undergone an investigation into his ministry and found countless allegations of inappropriate sexual relationships, including rape, and other kinds of abuse. I’ve enclosed a link to the Christian Post’s article where other Christian leaders, denominations, and organizations comment on these discoveries HERE.
You can spend the afternoon reading the endless parade of people condemning Ravi’s actions and pulling back any association with the ministry and his life’s work. Since I don’t want anyone to conclude that my perspective is in any way an approval of his actions, I want to make it clear that my heart goes out to the victims, whom are many. Sin always has victims. Always. Every time. Every sin of any size, humanity is diminished.
What you won’t find in this post is surprise. I’m not shocked. What’s more, I’m really tired of our broader culture acting shocked and dismayed, because this reaction is indicative of the deeper problem which I wish expose. If there is to be any healing for the victims, Ravi’s family and the ministry, or our world, we must first deal with the fundamentals. Ravi’s failures are not justifications for cynicism, nor unbelief, nor a heart of superiority. If any Christian understands the faith to which they subscribe, then Ravi’s actions are your’s and mine too. Can we get real?
Behind the shock and dismay of the Christian world is confusion about what it means for Jesus takes away our sins. John 1:29, Romans 11:27, Hebrews 10:11, 1 John 3:5 all use a version of the word aíro / áphairéo (carry away, lift up, do away with) and it refers to the burden of our sin or the guilt of missing the mark (hamartia). The bible doesn’t teach that Christ turns us from sinners into non-sinners, it teaches that Christ made is so that no one need carry the burden of sin. Yes, religious behavior can empower behaviors to change on the surface, mostly due to conformity, but anyone who has truly embarked on a spiritual journey and self discovery quickly learns as J.I. Packer put it: “The seeds of every sin lies within every human heart.” Show me one person who says they have overcome sin and I’ll show you someone who is lying or living in self-deceit.
Why has the church turned on him? Why is it now claiming his whole life was a sham or his ministry diminished? Of course no one approves of his actions, but what gives any person, ministry, denomination, or organization the right to throw stones of condemnation at Ravi, his family, or anyone else? Did we learn nothing from Jesus interaction with the woman caught in the act of adultery? The greater sin in the story was clearly the religious mind that sought to condemn her, not her sexual transgressions. Rather than the woman’s act undermining the rest of her humanity, it was contrasted to the morally superior religious who had lost their humanity and became unjust murderers.
Clearly this means we have misunderstood sin as the bad thing we do. As a result, religion is always trying to spot transgression. Sin is a state of being which gives way to all kinds of sinful doing. Sin is not our naughtiness. Sin is the necessary benchmark for knowledge of self, and thus a genuine gratitude for the grace and love of God (Calvin). I hate the effects of sin in the world too, I’m a victim of the sins of others as well as an active participant, so are you. Even the victims of Ravi’s sins, have victims of their own. I’m not being insensitive, I’m forcing us to look at the truth. The sin of judging Ravi is as bad as anything Ravi has done. If we don’t understand this, we don’t understand the Gospel.
“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:11-12)
Struggle with sin is the design, not the curse. Sin remains everywhere in all people, not because Jesus failed or the claims of Christ are false, but because knowledge and consciousness of sin, in all its permutations, is the antecedent to seeing the power of God in the world. What unbelievers call meaningless suffering, is simply their inability to connect the horror of the sinful heart to the cause of suffering. The moment we do so, is the moment we gain eyes to see the answer for what it is. The consequences of sin are real, painful, destructive and deadly. While the secular world can clearly see this, it has not behaved any better and worse has no solution. Christ’s life of suffering reveals that the design and plan of God himself, was to suffer and thus show us a path to new life.
Ravi’s suffering and confusion manifested in the behaviors which no one wants to admit are even possible. This doesn’t mean that evil won, or that any of his brilliant apologetics is somehow less or tarnished. I would argue that we would not have sees such brilliance apart from his struggle. His backstory actually proves the real Gospel, rather than denies it.
Healing begins when we start at the bottom of the cess pool. We don’t end there, but we start there. Furthermore, our sin doesn’t diminish the gains we have. Sin is not a reset button. Ravi’s extraordinary work and brilliant mind is not lost because of his sin, like you and me, it exists because of his struggle with it. Carl Jung said, “No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell.” Great people are not lucky people who are encumbered or tripped up by struggle, they are those who are shaped by struggle, where failure is the prerequisite. This is the meaning behind God’s people, Israel “Strives with God and overcomes”.
Stop being shocked by sin. Ravi’s sin creates a sobriety and a sadness, and unfortunately more victims, but his accomplishments could not exist without a lifetime of scouring his own depths to understand it’s presence and purpose. We all want to think of our Christian leaders as being above reproach and many are good people who never act out in an illegal or immoral way. I respect that. But then again, you don’t know their back story. You don’t know the depth of evil in their hearts. If its anything like my own, you don’t want to know. While moral conduct is good and worth striving for, let’s stop assuming that moral people are somehow without intense, dark struggles. Our heights are linked to our knowledge of our depths. We don’t escape our darkness, we transform our lives with it.
Moral superiority is the physical evidence of the worst sin of all humanity, pride. It’s permeates all people of all tribes, religions, and beliefs. We buy the sensationalism and get sucked away in all the gory details. The evil system of the world has trained us to latch onto all the dirt we can find and then act surprised and offended as if we were not possible of something similar. Each of us is responsible for managing the sin in our own heart and to prevent it from acting out. Sometimes we are successful. Most the time we aren’t. The Christ story opens up a channel for tremendous grace and healing and I think the church would do well not to distance themselves from these types of exposures, but use them to point all of us into a deeper faith.