On Thursday, December 31st 2020 at 1:01am, I could not sleep and dictated thoughts about Ravi Zacharias into my recorder app. This is adapted from those.
He should have never been in this position of Christian superstardom that demanded so much of his time and energy.
We as Christians are a body. We're all meant to show his glory and to have testimony and witness to who he is. The role of representing Christianity is given to each of us and all of us. "Famous Christians," frankly, can unintentionally take some of the glory away from the only One who deserves it.
The tiredness that he felt should have been a call to humility and rest. Instead, he let himself think that he needed something other than God to provide for his needs - to demand that of others - to manipulate, abuse, and exploit.
His policy of never being alone with women besides his wife clearly backfired because in the only moments where he was alone with women, he became a monster. This is a needed lesson in rules versus grace. When we try to renounce something by setting a hard rule, we tend to play into the devil's desire to tempt us with that very thing we are trying to denounce.
In the Love Thy Neighborhood podcast on "Where the Gospel Meets Womanhood" they shared a challenging story about a woman who walked into a room for a Theology class - there was only one other person there in the room, so she casually greeted him and introduced herself. He turned to her and only said, "I'm married," and then turned away.
As if to say, "your only value to me is as a potential mate, and I've already got that covered."
I imagine that man had a similar rule to Ravi Zacharias.
We the church NEED to talk about gender and sexuality. Now.
Who God has created us to be - the truth about our bodies, hearts, souls, and minds. The good news of Jesus is intimate with our bodies and sex. We cannot separate the body and the spirit. A spirit without a body is a ghost. A body without a spirit is a corpse. We're (rightfully) scared of both these things - we know they are meant to be unified.
Christian church silence - or worse, active condemnation - on all things body & sex needs to end. Because God loves our bodies and God loves sex. He created them and said, "hm, that's good."
There is an undue burden placed on pastors. I even struggle not to idolize my own pastor, who actively lays down his power, influence, and life as he helps to shepherd us in faith.
This trend of pastor glorification leads to isolation, where hidden vices can thrive. These are multiplied by the fear of being found out and the shame of struggling when being in such "spiritual" work. There's issues with pornography among pastors, it's no big secret.
We have put men in leadership in the church on a pedestal - and we have minimized the role of women as "help" rather than the strong Ezer Kenegdo that we are meant to be. There is unhealthy, misunderstood theology with how we've treated gender in the Church. It harms both men and women.
Whether you believe that Ravi Zacharias has simply cheated himself out of his reward in heaven by demanding one here on earth - or whether you think this at has implications for his salvation - it's not our job to judge who is in heaven with our Lord and who is not.
I wish that when this had come to light, Ravi could have been called to repentance, humility, and sincere honest recompense with these women that he has traumatized. I wish we as the Church knew how to give and receive rebuke.
That does not mean that we should ignore these things, even in his passing. Just like all all the women who have spoken up - they don't desire anything for themselves, they're speaking up so others will not be harmed at the same way. We should likewise join in with them and ask ourselves how we can heal as a body and not perpetuate our ongoing, damaging legacy.
And how can we look to ourselves?
Not to blame solely Ravi? (for he is not the only one) And consider how to spur other pastors or "famous" Christians still living today to carry out their own paths of repentance and humility.
How do we help those who have too much on their shoulders? How do we see, in one another, our tendency to take on the role of savior that we could never sustain?
How do we consider making less Christians famous and making the name of Jesus the famous one?
How do we talk about role of women and men? Not to continue dividing ourselves from one another in haphazard, Pharisaical ways - but rather join in the unity of the body that Jesus has made possible.
We should absolutely not to attempt to justify a now past man.
We must leave ample space for the grief of survivors right now.
Ravi Zacharias has passed away. How do we honor that life? Not by covering over his tracks as he so foolishly chose to do. Not by pretending he was Christ or that he was a perfect man. Though he may have preached the Gospel, he forgot Who the main character is. Jesus.
Jesus has plenty of room for our mess. But there is no room for anyone else on His throne. Ravi Zacharias put himself on the throne, and practiced extortion of God's most precious daughters. This is detestable.
Ravi had an opportunity to bring his own sin to light. He didn't. Maybe because there's not enough grace in Christian churches to actually live out the gospel? Maybe because he couldn't imagine losing his power and influence? Maybe because he was afraid how it would hurt Jesus' reputation. But Jesus' reputation will never be based on our cleanliness. Only on our ability to bring our full dirtiness before Him...and let Him do the work of transforming us. Ravi missed out on that, big time.
Ravi's time and opportunity to be able to speak up into these things has passed. But we the Church now have a time and opportunity. We must rebuild. This exposure has torn down senseless, dangerous walls we built with a crooked theology and misunderstanding of God. Without those walls, we can choose to rebuild better.