The final report of the sexual misconduct of the late Ravi Zacharias was released last week. Many of us knew the findings would be devastating due to a preliminary report issued several months ago, and even before that report, credible accounts started to surface about his personal lifestyle, rife with sexual dalliances. Reading the report makes us shake our heads in disbelief. How could someone who came across as brilliant, gifted, and credible lead a secret life of such utter slavery to sexual sin?
What do we say?
I’ve heard remarks like, “He is suffering in hell” or, “We are grateful that God’s grace is given even to the worst of sinners.” Others not understanding the need for victims to be validated, do not understand why so much attention has been given to the sins of a dead man. But of course, this report was necessary to give some kind of closure to those who suffered deep hurt as a result of this man’s deceptions. We cannot begin to imagine the emotional pain and righteous anger of his victims. They will have to live with the injustice of his betrayal for the rest of their lives. What it means for RZIM going forward has yet to be determined.
In this post I shall refrain from judging his eternal destiny; that is known but to God. Rather I shall focus on lessons we can learn from his decades-long deceptions and the pain endured by his many victims—not to mention the sense of utter betrayal felt by those who worked with him, and especially by his wife and family.
Let us ponder.
First, we should stand amazed at the evil deceptions of the human heart. When the Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9, KJV), it means just what it says. Someone once put it this way: Just when you think you have reached the bottom of the evil within the human heart, there is a trap door under your feet, and you realize there is another layer beneath you—a basement of deception—and then another. And another.
Never underestimate the evil we are capable of. Revelations about Ravi should cause us to shudder and “take heed lest we fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
Second, we must realize that technology gives us ways to sin that were not available to previous generations. The number of texts, emails, and pictures on Ravi’s cellphones, reflecting his interactions with dozens of women, would never have been possible just 20 years ago. Technology can be used for good of course, but the Internet (along with tablets and smartphones) gives us access to a whole world of evil with just the click of a mouse or the tap of an app. Such technology enables us to take pictures and send them around the world in an instant. Addictions of any kind can now be fed daily, hourly, and privately.
Ravi thought that his emails would never be detected, but the same technology that gave him privacy also exposed his misdeeds. Despite its promises of privacy, there is always newer, more advanced technology that can see what you want to hide.
Third, we must realize that the most important part of who we are is that which no one ever sees, namely the mind and the heart. Who was Ravi Zacharias? He was not the brilliant apologist whom everyone admired. The real Ravi was who he was when standing before God; nothing less and nothing more.
Yes, those who have placed their faith in Christ are shielded from God’s eternal wrath, but at the judgment seat of Christ, all believers will be judged “so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10). At that moment, Jesus will move beyond the outward to the inward, from deeds to motives, desires, and the secrets of the heart. “Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart” (1 Corinthians 4:5, italics added). We will discover, as the old adage says, “You are not what you think you are, but…what you think, you are.”
According to the final report, even when someone accompanied Ravi, they had no reason to suspect that he was involved in sexual misconduct whether in the US or overseas. Which leads me to my final lesson: although accountability is important, even the accountability of a companion cannot hamper the heart’s deceitfulness and proclivity to sin. What Ravi seemed to dismiss—and we face the same temptation—is the reality that even when he was alone, he was not really alone after all. “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him” (2 Chronicles 16:9). And again, “For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). We never go anywhere alone. In light of this truth, we must run to Christ moment by moment, so that God, who sees all we do, might give us His mercy and grace.
The eighteenth-century evangelist George Whitefield requested that these words be on his tombstone: “Here lies G.W.; What sort of man he was, the great day will discover.”
Let us live in fear and trembling with those words in mind.