The revelations about Ravi Zacharias have no doubt left a bitter taste in many mouths. A man of his spiritual stature, intellect and humble demeanour- no one could have ever suspected what was taking place in his heart nor in his private life. What most find difficult to stomach is how could a man deemed to be one of the greatest defenders of the Faith, be found to have actively and carefully crafted such troubling, abusive and deep-rooted perversion against women for so many years?
It would not be a stretch to say these revelations have left a number of saints shaken and afraid of what could be taking place behind the closed doors of church offices, conference hotels and pastoral homes. Personally, I was left baffled at my dismissal of those who initially blew the whistle. I felt betrayed by my heart which had made an idol of Ravi, a man who had encouraged my faith and had given me a fresh zeal for the Gospel which I had started to passively embrace. I saw the gravity of how presumptuous actions rooted in sin can get, if left unaccounted for and undisciplined by the living word and the church. But mostly, I saw how much I need God daily, lest I fall. However, God uses these disturbing events to teach us some hard-hitting lessons.
God will always receive His glory, in spite of us
God’s glory can never be stolen from Him. The evil actions of men and women, whom we consider to be modern-day heroes of the faith, cannot undo what God has already accomplished through them. Throughout the Scriptures we see God deliver His people by the hands of those who are considered to be evildoers. We see narcissistic kings who encourage sex trafficking (King Xerxes- Esther); brothers controlled by raging envy selling their own into slavery(Joseph’s brothers); thieves driven by greed and Satanic influence trading out their innocent friend for money (Judas-Jesus) – be the very people that God instrumentally uses to bring about salvation.
God did not cause these people to sin, but He never let the results of their actions end in sorrow or condemnation. Instead, He uses those instances of sin, to bring about a glorious display of His grace and mercy- by saving sinners, through sinners, by the work of His Holy Spirit. He uses dirtied hands to save.
Fight Your Idols
The exposure of those we consider to be our modern-day “giants” of the faith can unroot a nasty seed of toxic loyalty. A loyalty that is so far removed from logic that once we hear truthful, coherent accusations of the leaders in question, we are quick to put our fingers in our ears, shut our eyes and forcefully silence the victim(s). This is idolatrous behaviour and in no way does it reflect the heart of God that commanded us to “not have other gods before Me”(Ex 20:3), and the very same God who commanded us to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).
In operating out of idolatry, we fail to look towards the Scriptures’ guidance on these matters (2 Tim 3:16), but instead choose to twist it to the leaders’ favour, enabling their sin and furthering their abuse (2 Tim 3:1-5). We fail to reflect God’s heart in seeking justice for the victims; in loving kindness as we seek reconciliation; and walking humbly beside Him acknowledging our own failings (Mic 6:8).
We must be wary of the vicious forms of idolatry that can so easily form in our hearts and pray for God to deliver us from the worship of man instead of the Creator. We must make it our responsibility to let our love be sincere (Rom 12:9) for the victims who bore the brunt of our leaders’ sin, strengthening them in the truths of Romans 8. Showing that God’s love has neither changed towards them, nor is it partial, and in fact, He promises to be an avenger to those who hurt his sheep, big name or not (Rom 12:9).
Unveil Your Hidden Sins
The public demise of leaders should alert us to the urgency there is in fighting our hidden sins, confessing them to our brothers and sisters, and seeking help in gaining victory over them. “What was in the darkness shall come to light” (Luke 8:17)- God makes no jokes, a lie has a short life.
The more loyal we are to our secret sins, the more we become deceptive and manipulative to those around us in order to hide away from being exposed or even being suspected. That is why when news breaks out, shockwaves rip through the community and most saints are left crying out in denial, “But that’s not the man we knew!” But God knows, and the words, “I never knew you”, may be uttered to those who are more loyal to feeding their sin, when they face the Great Judge. Let us not be found in the same predicament.
When we hide our sin, we overload on doing good in order to shy our consciences away from the bad we love so dearly. We bear the same markers that David had when he connived to kill Uriah in order to bury the fruit of his secret sin. However, we can also follow David’s example in the fact that he did not stay concealing his sin, when confronted by God, he repents (Psalm 51).
Realise the Truth
Bearing the Lord’s name as His child means living out a righteous life, and in order to achieve such, we must start with the truth. The truth is, if it wasn’t for God’s restraining grace at work in us all, to keep us from realising and manifesting the full extent of our depravity, we would have committed heinous acts.
Sin should never be left alone. Do not keep silent about your struggles/dark urges, lest you waste away (Psalm 32:3). Confess your sins to each other and pray for one another that you may be healed (James 5:16). He is faithful and just to forgive us and purify us, because of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross and His current intercession for us (1 John 1:9).
Think of a leader you look up to in the faith. It may be your pastor or your giant of the faith. We as a church and the body of Christ, should not take part in allowing any institutional failings when our leaders fall. We must confront how we view our leaders. Ask yourself:
- Do I see my leader as above reproach?
- Can I acknowledge that my leaders have heavy besetting sins that they battle daily?
- Do I fervently pray for them to be kept from the influences of their flesh and of the world?
- Does our church community reinforce a culture of transparency, accountability and discipline?
- Do I recognize that they are just human, saved by grace also embarking on a lifelong journey of spiritual warfare?
The gifts that our leaders hold are not by works, they don’t come out of their efforts in reading lengthy texts, their likeability, their seminary degrees, or in their use of clever analogies when teaching. Yes, these attributes can aid our knowledge of God and so on and so forth but ultimately, they are under grace. It is God who imparts the gift and it is God who saves the lost.
Consider the Gospel
Consider the power of the Gospel, it is powerful enough to save the unsavable by human standards. It is God’s lifeline rope, given out of love, to save unholy creatures from impending judgement. Judgement enacted to those who refuse to acknowledge His authority and turn away from their sins and receive His free gift of salvation. Judgement in a place where there is never-ending anguish, where soul and body will be destroyed, where there is utter darkness and unquenchable fire. A place where there is no way out.
The Gospel does not stop there. God does not just stop at saving us from eternal judgement, but He brings us close to Himself for eternity. His Holy Spirit makes His dwelling place within us and allows us to see God in many wonderful arrays. He becomes the Love that will not let us go, the Light that illuminates the dark terrains of the valley, the Joy that seeks us through pain, and the One who lifts up our weary heads to the hope set before us (Matheson Hymn).
May we be humbled by this Gospel. That though we did not deserve to even taste a scintilla of this grace or mercy, God STILL CHOOSES to rain it down on us morning by morning, in full inexhaustible abundance. Dear Christian, take time to consider the Gospel today and let your heart sing for joy in how great His faithfulness is.