Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted — Galatians 6:1
Oh no! Here we go again. A popular apologist, author, and evangelist, a recognised high-profile Christian leader, with a large international following, was credibly accused of sexual harassment. Although he died in 2020 and cannot answer for himself, the overall evidence appears to be irrefutable – photos, text messages, and testimonies. An independent law firm investigated the matter and confirmed that the accusations were valid. As a result, his ministry had to issue a massive apology, change their name, and remove all materials in the person’s name. On top of it all, the deceased’s denomination posthumously revoked his ministry credential.
The man in question was Ravi Zacharias (1946-2020), founder and chairman of the board of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM). Please note it is not our intention to denigrate, ‘tut tut,’ or throw stones at anyone. We are all born into a fallen world with a fallen nature and without the proper safeguards can go astray. Our purpose is to examine what went wrong and insights we can draw from in order to get it right.
May we say right here on the spot: Please pray for Ravi’s wife, Margaret, their three children, RZIM, and, of course, the victims of this scandal.
At the time of this writing, we are preparing a radio message regarding ‘David and Bathsheba.’ This celebrated ‘man after God’s own heart,’ mentioned 1,100 times in Scripture, was not immune from sin and the scandal that it spawns. Scripture deliberately tells all as an exhortation and warning to the people of faith. Our goal is to look for principles, not be obsessed with personalities.
The exact reasons for Zacharias’s fall are subject to conjecture but there are some basic precepts from which we can draw.
- Accountability: Moral failure and lack of accountability go hand-in-hand. If you surveyed fallen ministers, chances are very high that you would find this as the common denominator. Accountability means to answer with your mouth for the actions of your life. It is desirable, spiritual, and inevitable. Romans 14:12: So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Accountability is an insurance policy for your integrity. Be careful, however: it is possible to have an accountability structure, like a board or trustees, and still be unaccountable. Devious people can circumvent the very persons to whom they should report. One Bible teacher put it this way: Show me a person who lacks accountability and I’ll show you a disaster waiting to happen. None of us is that perfect and spiritual that we can forgo accountability; to do so is to invite scandal. It is important that we are discerning, since the double-life person will leave tell-tale signs of duplicity. Aggravation when questioned about their actions is normally a sign that something is not right.
- Double-life: We live in an age of increasing deception, with doublespeak, gaslighting, smoke and mirrors. Tragically, it is possible for ministers to live a double-life: servant of God by day, sensuous predator by night. Consider:
A. In some cases, the sinner was not a real Christians to begin with; in others, they started off right but did not maintain their integrity.
B. In other cases, they started off right but did not maintain their integrity. They fear to admit their sin lest it harm the ministry and its cash flow, so they quietly continue on, hoping that things will get better.
C. Or the wayward minister is so ‘successful’ that he feels the normal Biblical code of conduct does not apply to him – he works hard and deserves to be the exception. God must be okay with his behaviour since the ministry is prospering. The Lord has not pulled out the rug from under him. Actually, there is a reason for this: God will act but is giving time for the person to repent.
It is important that we are discerning, since the double-life person will leave tell-tale signs of duplicity. Aggravation when questioned about their actions is normally a sign that something is not right.
Next month, we will explore further ways to scandal-proof one’s life and ministry.
TO BE CONTINUED