On May 19, 2020, Christians across the world mourned the passing of Ravi Zacharias.
Born in India, Zacharias became a Christian following a suicide attempt in his late teens. He went on to receive a graduate degree and to preach the gospel and defend the faith in many nations. Zacharias founded Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) and wrote more than 30 books. After Zacharias died from cancer at the age of 74, Vice President Mike Pence described him as “a Christian apologist whose ministry for the gospel of Jesus Christ impacted millions around the world. Ravi was a man of faith who could ‘rightly handle the word of truth’ like few others in our time…” Zacharias was survived by his wife, Margie, and their three adult children.
In recent months, it has become clear that Ravi Zacharias—despite his decades of Christian work and his wholesome public image—had concealed a pattern of sexually immoral and abusive conduct. On February 11, 2021, Christianity Today led off an article on Zacharias with the following words:
A four-month investigation found [that] the late Ravi Zacharias leveraged his reputation as a world-famous Christian apologist to abuse massage therapists in the United States and abroad over more than a decade while the ministry led by his family members and loyal allies failed to hold him accountable.
He used his need for massage and frequent overseas travel to hide his abusive behavior, luring victims by building trust through spiritual conversations and offering funds straight from his ministry.
A report on the results of an independent investigation into Zacharias is available here (caution: mature subject matter).
This explosive news is grievous and sobering. How could Zacharias’s private life have deviated so sharply from his public witness? Why wasn’t his behavior brought into the light and addressed during his life? And if Christians can’t trust a man like Ravi Zacharias, who can we trust?
The answer to the first question is found in Scripture: Jeremiah 17:9 instructs us that the human heart “is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Sadly, it is all too clear that Christian leaders are not immune to temptation and sin. The answer to the second question is more complicated. It appears that RZIM’s personnel enabled and indirectly facilitated Zacharias’s sinful conduct. Whether they did so because of naivete, respect for Zacharias’s accomplishments, fear of being perceived as disloyal, or simple self-interest is a question that we cannot answer; however, Christian organizations would be wise to check their own practices to make sure that no leader in their ranks is above being held accountable. The answer to the third question is quite simple: Christians must trust the Lord. The good news is that while fallible men and women may disappoint us, God never will.