After nearly 50 years as one of the world’s most famous Christian apologists, Ravi Zacharias (deceased) has now been exposed for sexually abusing many women, and threatening them to keep his horrendous deeds hidden.
This news dropped like a bomb across the Christian community. Millions had been strengthened in their faith through Ravi’s ministry. I used his materials in a high school class I taught on World Religions.
When I heard the news, I had a flashback to when I was in my twenties and was deeply influenced by the Christian worship leader, Kevin Prosch. At one event where Kevin was leading worship, he only got through part of the second song when the Spirit of God fell upon that place and for the next three hours all of us were caught up in an ecstatic realm—some saw into heaven, some fell on their faces weeping—and for the first time in my life, what I had always known about the love of God became my experience, and changed me forever.
A few years later, Kevin publicly confessed his sexual brokenness that had hurt several women and destroyed his marriage. I was devastated.
We all have “heroes” that turn out to be mere mortals; or worse, maybe even “villains.”
In the two cases above, one managed to “escape” to heaven without facing the music here on earth—the other repented and turned his life around. I imagine that standing before God will be a very different experience for them—one exposed and ashamed; the other radiant with the joy of the redeemed.
When these failings happen, the Church’s usual lessons are, “Be careful!” and “Be accountable!” Worthy reminders, for sure.
The World’s usual response is “Pull their books/music off the shelves, their hypocrisy invalidates their message.”
But does it? I still sing Kevin’s songs. I’ll still reference Ravi’s logical arguments for truth.
Their credibility went up in smoke, but what is pure and true in their message will endure the flames.
This leads us to a question rarely addressed by either the Church or the World—why would God give such knowledge, talent and influence to people He knows will use it to abuse others for their own gain?
This isn’t only a modern question—why give Solomon divine wisdom and limitless wealth if he would end up worshipping the idols of his 700 wives and 300 concubines?
Why invite Judas to join the 12 disciples in the first place if he would end up as Jesus’ betrayer?
My answer—God’s love and humility is so astounding, that He will stoop to any depth to enter into our screwed-up world.
Solomon’s dedication of the Temple brought a visitation from God. Judas seemingly healed the sick and cast out demons with the rest of the disciples.
And God couldn’t wait for a generation that was ready to follow His Messiah, so He sent Jesus to a generation that crucified him.
Today, God can’t wait for an army of morally pure, completely selfless, all-loving people to carry His message to the world, so He slips it in between our foolish ambitions and pursuit of our own pleasure, and somehow His message manages to shine through.
As Kevin Prosch wrote in “So Come”:
You’ve taken the precious from the worthless…
You’ve chosen the weak things of this world to shame that which is strong
And the foolish things to shame the wise
I remember one time my kids complaining about a church we visited. I understood—I had felt God’s presence more clearly in a mosque than in that church. But I told my kids, “The amazing thing is that if you look hard enough, God is in this church too. He’s infiltrated the movie studios, the music industry, the bars, the prisons, and even the Christian seminaries. In some places you have to look extra hard to find Him, but He’s there.”
So here’s my lesson from reflecting on my fallen heroes—Oh, the depth of God’s love and humility, to choose to be carried into our cities on the back of an “ass” over and over again, because He couldn’t wait for us to encounter His love just a little bit more today!
4 thoughts on “Fallen Heroes–What We Learn from Ravi Zacharias’ Downfall”
Well said Jim Baton!
I enjoyed reading your post and came away realizing anew (may it always be so!) how far God goes and allows to show His love for us and all people! The world wants to throw out the baby with the bathwater, but as you wrote, Mr. Zacharias’ incredible writings and work of God’s truth will remain powerful because they are His truth. Same with Kevin Prosch’s music, David’s (the adulter) psalms, Moses’ (the murderer) Torah, and the list goes on as you mentioned Judas, Solomon and more.
Of course, it in no way condones sin, and how much greater a testimony to those who lead a Godly life without putting stumbling blocks for people to see Jesus in our lives. May our repentance also point to the merciful God who calls us to be holy, supplies the grace and dependence to walk with Him and the restoration when we fail.
Not really saying anything you haven’t said more fully and personally, just Amen!
Keep on writing!
Bill Hybels was the lead pastor of a church of over 20,000 members in the Chicago area. He was one of the leaders of the church growth movement. It seems the enemy uses sex and money to tempt and destroy many Christians. We need to be always on guard that we don’t fall and fail as Zacharias and Hybels did. Except for the grace of God, there go I.
I didn’t know about Bill Hybels. Love his church and ministry and have been blessed by such. So sorry to hear about any failing there. Like you, except for grace go I and I will pray more for our leaders because when they fail, the cost is much more. Thanks for writing!
Beautifully said, Jim. May we ride the unforced rhythms of God’s grace this day. Blessings and Peace, Nick Armstrong