“Jesus didn’t come to make bad men good, he came to make dead men live.” I’ve quoted that at every Easter service and funeral I’ve done for as long as I can remember. When Ravi Zacharias said it, I know he didn’t mean it literally. Jesus did come so that by faith his righteousness is counted as mine. I know Ravi said it that way for effect. Jesus is not religion. And both his claims about our resurrection and his own bodily resurrection are unparalleled in human history.
Now, while I still believe that statement, I feel nauseous thinking about it. Ravi Zacharias’s own ministry has unearthed his horrific private sins since his death. In 2017 when more mild accusations were made against him, I didn’t want to believe it. Now, there is no reasonable doubt to me. Ravi was a sick man.
Yet I am not writing today to try to convince you of how disturbed I am. I am surely not nearly enough. I’m not telling you how to feel about it. I do, however, want to make a pastoral plea to our Christian readers today about a very simple, practical, and biblical way to respond.
When Jesus taught his disciples how to pray he included “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one”. In the Beatitudes, he said that “Blessed are those than hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” There is no doubt in my mind that if I am going to keep from going down the same road Ravi went down, I’m going to have to beg God to help me. This is countercultural and counterintuitive, as the Bible typically is. We want to try harder. To be stronger. To turn over a new leaf. We resolve at New Years’.
But that is not the way of Christianity. A person who is hungry and thirsty is in a posture of dependent humility. You get to that point because you do not have. If you have, you never let yourself get hungry or thirsty. I’m convinced that Jesus is saying you need to cry out to God for righteousness like a person desperate for bread and water. The fact “They will be filled” is proof. He is not telling us to fill ourselves. This verse is right after “Blessed are the poor in spirit” and “Blessed are the meek”. Only those who recognize that they cannot make themselves righteous will be righteous in God’s kingdom.
The verses about temptation and evil in the Lord’s prayer are the same. They are commands. But not “Come here!” to a child commands. They are “Help me!” type commands from a person drowning in the water. Much like Psalm 119:33-40.
It feels strange to say this because I draw a paycheck teaching people that the Bible is literal time-and-space history. But sometimes Samson and Solomon feel too far away to be real. Ravi Zacharias does not. I don’t know if he ever was a Christian but I do know that I am not above his actions being my actions. Jesus’s words and Ravi’s life teach me that if I ever get to the point where I think I’m above a certain sin, I’ve just taken the first step to commit that sin. It is only when I am weak in Christianity that I can be strong.
Years ago, a married guy I know succumbed to sexual immorality while his wife was away one weekend. He eventually confessed this and it created gigantic issues in their marriage. Yet with time, his Christian wife forgave him and they worked through it. One day he and his wife were getting ready to part again; and, in the car, before she got out they prayed together that he would be faithful while she was away. This was not her telling him, “Be strong. Try harder. Do better.” No, it a prayer of meekness, filled with tears from both sides that God would keep him from temptation and would deliver him. That God would fill him with righteousness.
Today, even though I am not in the same boat as Ravi, I know I could be. So that is the prayer I want to pray today with my wife. It’s the prayer I want to pray for the rest of my life. And that is the plea I make with my fellow Christians today.
Editor’s Note: Due to the recent investigation and subsequent revelations by the RZIM ministry, confirming the many moral failings by Ravi Zacharias, we have decided to retract the tribute we published in May of 2020.
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