By this deed, you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme…. (2 Samuel 12:14).
I loved the writings and messages of the late Ravi Zacharias. In 2009, when I discovered that a longtime friend, whose wife had at one time been my secretary, was working for Dr. Zacharias, I contacted him and we had a great phone visit. Since I had none of the books RZ had written, my friend sent me several. I loved them and quoted from them often.
Ravi Zacharias was a powerful voice for theism, a effective apologist for the Christian faith, and a comfort to believers everywhere. He was, that is, until he wasn’t.
After his death last year, the voices began to be heard. It turned out–and subsequent investigations have proven this–that Zacharias was a sexual user of women and a serial abuser. He was a liar and a cheat. He made sure that no one was granted access to his phones and their records, and branded his accusers as the very handmaidens of Satan.
All of those who loved and believed in this man are humiliated and disappointed. Christian bookstores are removing his books. Lee Strobel, who had given a full chapter in one of his best-selling books to an interview with RZ, has revised that book after erasing the chapter.
And the enemies of the Christian faith are delighted. This may be the worst fallout of all.
When David’s descent from righteousness was exposed, the Prophet Nathan pointed out that by David’s adultery and subsequent killing of Uriah, he had done four bad things: 1) Despised God’s Word (2 Samuel 12:9); 2) Despised God Himself (12:10); 3) Deserted his loved ones (12:10,11), and 4) Delighted the enemy (12:14).
This morning while reading in First Peter chapter two on the subject of “righteous living before a hostile world,” I thought once again of the vivid and unsavory example of Dr. Zacharias for these very truths. Far be it from me to sit in judgment on the man. He has One who will be doing that and far more righteously than any of us could. As I scanned the RZ book The End of Reason: A Response to the New Atheists, I thought once more of what a great treasure the man had been, as far as we knew. Of course, the revelations of his infidelities and chronic ungodliness do not prove the untruth of anything he said. This is the conundrum which the Lord God Himself will have to unravel, for I cannot.
The Apostle Peter says, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. (I Peter 2:11-12).
As pilgrims, we are to so live as to silence the critics of the Christian faith. To live as hypocrites is to give the enemy a voice, a platform, a bullhorn with which to be heard.
As citizens, we are to submit ourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake…. For this is the will of God that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men–as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God…. (I Peter 2:13-17)
Silence the foolishness of the ignorant by our faithfulness. That’s the plan.
As servants, we are to be submissive to our masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it, if when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. (I Peter 2:18-20)
Whether our obedience ends up silencing the enemy or not, doing so is “commendable before God,” and that should be motivation enough for any of us.
The Lord Jesus is our ultimate pattern--role model, example–for righteous living in a hostile world. Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example that you should follow His steps…. who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins might live for righteousness…. (I Peter 2:21-25).
Let no one think I am judging or condemning Ravi Zacharias. I am a sinner who will be needing all the grace the Lord can muster when I stand before Him. Like the readers of these words, I assume, I give thanks that my sins and failures are not being paraded before the watching world in investigations and news releases and I grieve at each new revelation about the deeds of RZ or other Christian leaders whose records turned out to be less than we had thought.
I thank God for the assurance of God’s Word. He has not dealt with us according to our sins nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. But as the Heavens are higher than the earth, so great is His lovingkindness to those who fear Him. (Psalm 103:10-11).
If it seems to the reader that the sins of our fallen brother are worse than any of ours, I suggest that he/she tread softly there, for the ground underneath such footsteps is quicksand. Nothing here is meant to excuse or justify sins and moral failings. The same epistle–that would be First John–that constantly urges us not to sin and says habitual sinning is prime evidence one has never been redeemed also gives us the grand assurance that if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous, and He Himself is the propitiation for ours sins…. (I John 2:1-2).
“Father, help us get this right, please. For Jesus’ sake.”