Responding to the Ravi Zacharias Scandal: Three Biblical Steps Every Christian Must Take Now
By Dr. Jim Denison
February 15, 2021
|FILE - In this May 29, 2020 file photo, images of Ravi Zacharias are displayed in the Passion City Church during a memorial service for him in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)|
Note: The impeachment and acquittal of former President Trump by the Senate raise vital questions for our culture and our future. However, given the urgency of today’s topic, I will postpone my response to the impeachment proceedings until tomorrow’s Daily Article.
Witnessing the fall of someone we greatly admire elicits deep, painful emotions. We feel betrayed by them and embarrassed that we trusted them. The more public our faith in them, the more public our shame and the deeper our anger. We wonder if there is anyone we can truly trust. If they were part of a larger movement, that movement’s reputation is disgraced along with them.
These emotions describe the way many of us have felt since allegations of sexual abuse first began surfacing against Ravi Zacharias, one of the best-known and most admired evangelicals of our generation. I wrote at his death of my gratitude for his life and legacy. Then horrendously sinful personal stories began to surface.
Last Friday, the report of the law firm hired by Ravi Zacharias International Ministries to investigate these stories was made public. The scathing twelve-page document is heartbreaking. I will not describe here what it describes, but it includes evidence of rape, other acts of sexual abuse, and numerous extramarital relationships.
Christianity Today and others are reporting on the details of this scandal. My purpose today is to consider it in the context of spiritual warfare and to identify three biblical lessons we must each learn today, before this story becomes our story tomorrow.
One: Grieve for the victims
Jesus warned us that Satan “was a murderer from the beginning” and “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Our Savior also told us that “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). Whenever we find death, lies, theft, and destruction, we know that our spiritual enemy has been at work.
This is what happened to the victims of Ravi Zacharias’ sins. Each person he abused is someone made in God’s image and beloved by our Father. How I would feel if this happened to my wife is how we should all feel today.
We are told to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). Try to imagine how these victims have felt over these years. Then pray for their healing and for the body of Christ to demonstrate his compassion and grace to them.
And remember that sin always affects the innocent. Satan loves to use one sin to destroy as many lives as he can. The next time you are tempted with “private” sin, remember the victims of Ravi Zacharias’ sins. The women he abused will never forget their pain, and his family and colleagues are shamed and grieving as well.
Two: Expect private sin to become public
Here is how Satan’s strategy with so-called “private” sin works: “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14–15).
Is tempted is in the present tense, showing that temptation is an ever-present reality for us all. Lured means to be “dragged away.” Enticed means to catch by use of bait, as in trapping an animal or catching a fish.
The Greek syntax of sin when it is fully grown indicates that this result is not inevitable; we can stop sin before it reaches this stage. However, we must confess our sin immediately (1 John 1:8–10) because sin begins to metastasize immediately. Otherwise, the result is physical and spiritual death (Luke 15:32; Ephesians 2:1; Revelation 20:14). The Bible consistently warns us that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23; cf. Ezekiel 18:20).
The next time you are tempted by “private” sin, see this temptation as bait in a cage. And know that its consequences will be far worse than its rewards, for you and everyone who knows you. I will repeat a statement I have made often over the years: sin will always take you further than you wanted to go, keep you longer than you wanted to stay, and cost you more than you wanted to pay. Always.
Three: Repent now
The Bible reveals: “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). We includes every Christian. What Satan did to Ravi Zacharias, he wants to do to you and to me today.
If you are harboring “secret” sin that has not yet been exposed, don’t believe Satan’s lie that you will be the one person who will get away with it. Your Enemy is waiting until you climb even further up the ladder so that your fall will be even more devastating to you and all those you hurt on the way down.
If this could happen to Ravi Zacharias, it can happen to any of us.
I have known several “fallen” ministers over the years. The ways their private sins were made public were so unusual and unpredictable that none could have imagined being found out as they were.
If you are living in unrepented sin, you are climbing a ladder that will collapse under you when Satan chooses. Get off it now with confession, repentance, and contrition. Read 1 John 1:9, then claim its truth as God’s promise for your soul.
What to do if you’re walking on ice
I am writing this morning in the midst of the worst winter weather we have seen in the Dallas area for decades. The storm began last Thursday, leading to a 135-vehicle wreck in Ft. Worth that killed six people and injured dozens more. Transportation in our region is largely shut down today.
One reason is that ice fell before the snow began, coating our bridges and roads. As a result, under the snow we can see is a sheet of ice we cannot see. When we walk or drive on the snow, the ice it is hiding can be dangerous and even deadly.
When ice is under your feet, the safest thing you can do is get on your knees and crawl to safety.