Ravi Zacharias and the sin I know
Sexual harassment is confusing but no less wrong or messy.
A dear friend of mine sent me an article about a great man of God, evangelist Ravi Zecharias. The article which I haven’t read yet I assumed talked about or detailed his ownership of a massage parlor close to his ministry and the stories of women that worked there where he received routine massages and would often touch them inappropriately.
I didn’t need to read the article because I read the details in a separate article many months ago shortly after his passing. I was supposed to puke and be disheartened that such an evangelist was so flawed and covered it up.
I didn’t puke and it bothered me that I wasn’t ragingly disappointed at another story of a saint made to look ordinary and maybe less than. Instead of puke, I found a resonance to his story one that made me dig into the impossibility of perfection and the damage that results from men living to uphold the power their image proffers over the power of God. I grew up idolizing pastors thinking they were god incarnates destined to represent perfection that is attainable on this side of earth. I grew up sensitive to any form of humanization of God’s holy men and that robbed me of truth. It robbed me of seeing the real picture of God’s love.
Over the years, I have come to realize that my anger and disappointment is misplaced if it’s not directed at the lengths and extents to which pastors go to bolster the image of perfection. There is the atrocious violation of people that the mission is to invest in, then there is the cover up. Like David, the cover up stinks worse than the sin.
A pastor or evangelist is a MAN or WOMAN simply providing a vessel, themselves for God to speak, and communicate His inspiration, message, and power. They are pointers to Jesus not Jesus themselves.
What is essential and evident isn’t the vessel but what it carries. When Jesus was among us on earth. He came specifically in a vessel the world then considered inadequate of a king or Messiah. So much so that when he announced himself as such, He was roundly rejected and disputed.
But isn’t that the point? Isn’t that consistent with how God works. Let’s go down the list and take a look at the closest people to Jesus and what we see are flawed people before and after.
David whom God describes as a man after His own heart. Essentially the closest a human can get to the heart beat of God. David was a murderer who killed a soldier in His army to keep sleeping with His wife. He killed him because he was not gonna take a moment off from battle and fit into David’s master plan to cover up his atrocious sin.
As a Christian, I often over look this fact in practice. In theory, I get it but in practice it doesn’t enter into my consciousness. The truth is, God didn’t let the sin go. In practice there are often two camps. One that minimizes the man or one that minimizes the sin. God did the opposite. He maximized the man and maximized the sin. Let me park here for a bit.
The report published by his own ministry was detail enough. It’s safe to conclude he did it. So I pause because even for David, God wasn’t kind to his sin. Ravi Zecharias not only did a terrible thing, my heart breaks because by all accounts, he lived in it till at least his death. He infact built a nice business around it too. I think this is where the comparison with David gets stark. When David was confronted as one who feared God, he broke down and repented and accepted whatever the cost to be reconciled to God.
To be a man of God, especially a great one is not to have no sin but instead to have a tender heart to what God convicts. The grace of God shines through David not because of his perfection but his humility and contrition. In establishing the contrast, I also want to highlight that God’s grace is never a dagger that pierces the heart of the downtrodden, or compounds the misery of their violation. The law of the God he served on the one hand bends to no human greatness. He is a just God that will not allow sin stink in His presence nor ignore the cries of the victims.
On the other hand, this same God used him powerfully or at least allowed for great works to be done through him. This is where the emphasis on Ravi ends and my own confession starts. I am reminded of the incomprehensible grace of God. One step further, I am reminded that God saw Ravi Zecharias in all of us especially me and knew that I am a hopeless bunch.
The issue of sin is not a nice option God considered. It was a desperate fix to a prevalent ill deep within every soul. As angry as I am at the cover up act and the trauma it wrought in the women that must have experienced a spiritual and physical whiplash from his consistently inconsistent betrayal by behavior of a staunchly visible faith. I see a part of God’s long suffering grace at work in a confounding way. How long did He have a chance to confess and repent? How long did God wait for his repentance? Who else do we attribute all he did to? How did God suffer long with the victims and yet not pluck away his life as He felt the victim’s every hurt ? How does any of it make any sense?
His grace requires that I don’t minimize his sin because to do so would be to minimize his weakness. To minimize his weakness would be to minimize the strength of God’s Grace in broken, fallen, wicked people like me. To minimize the depth of God’s patience with the human even as He burns with holy hate for sin.
The law is the law. The crossing the law is the crossing of the law. The sin is the sin. It needs to be held high up as big and atrocious and ugly as it is. And the man? We need also to walk a mile in his shoes. Not to excuse his sins but to remind us of his humanity and to challenge each other of why we need a God to not pay us back what we deserve — very definition of mercy; but instead to give us what we don’t deserve — His grace, His son.
I’m tired of judging men as a means to puff myself up and truly cover my own sin. I know the eternal struggles of lust, as a man, so I’m just gonna come clean. I have sexually harassed women, and that was the wound that awoken in my soul when his story came up. It was so deep and deeply buried that I quickly reached for my usual suppressant — tongue lash the guilty man to escape pain and leave unscathed.
I’ve been to massage parlors and I have responded to women touching me inappropriately, and I have gone to other places and touched women inappropriately and it’s disgusting.
As a man seeking to honor God, i have oftentimes found myself stuck between a rock and a hard place. I didn’t start out inappropriately touching women at a massage parlor. I merely went out to relief stress and developed a good relationship with my masseuse at the time. It felt really good and soothing and I assumed that is what I was paying for. Stress relief! Until of course the first time, she gave me more than I was paying for or more than I came in for and in the moment I took it like a rabid dog hungry for blood. Make no mistake, I took it. She wanted more money and she presented me with something I longed for and fantasized about and I took it!
I own it. I take responsibility for it and it definitely changed me. For a few years, after, I thought I had found a way to be Christian and not have sex. This was good! As wrong as it felt, it helped me cope and as long as she was getting something out of it, I felt like I found a viable option.
Shortly after, I heard about a police raid of establishments like where I went for massage. I had essentially been comforted in practices that were illegal, and who knows some of the women may have been prostitutes or involved in human trafficking.
I struggle to forgive myself and worse still, I dealt with the urge for many years after often succumbing and going on a damaging spree weekly to find release. I lived in bondage and even now I realize this hasn’t been fully dealt with. It’s just been a scab hiding a throbbing, pulsating wound. The article and the vileness of the actions as I got a glimpse from the anger of my friend reminded me of the gravity of my sin. I am Ravi and the time to repent is now, and this repentance must not be easy; it must bear the full weight of its cost especially to the victims. I don’t know the full details of what he did but I know the full weight of what was awoken in me that I now confess.
But I was still a Christian? Can I be a prostitute patronizing man or an indirect human trafficking investor AND be a Christian ? Certainly the teaching of repentance as I have heard it taught says that if I have Jesus, then I would never do any of those things.
Fast forward to last year or so when I read about evangelist Ravi Zecharias and my heart broke. I have a glimpse of what he felt. His story of introduction to it might be dissimilar to mine but I couldn’t help but be moved in my soul to internal tears.
He was lonely as hell and struggling to be holy. Struggling to be fit for use. Struggling to be a vessel into honor and yet his humanity was evident to him everytime he went into his own establishment.
It’s sad to talk about this because my hands are shaking as I write this. All I keep thinking about is that the police might read this and pick me up and even if they don’t, my inner circles will be ashamed of me and if they are not, my future love who I hope would love Jesus would never want to deal with the emotional and spiritual baggage of being that adulterous woman that should be stoned but finds herself daily in the hands of Jesus giving uncommon grace.
I am writing this out of a spiritual compulsion to obey and write about what He lays on my mind. I don’t want to be found out as a fraud, the exact fraud that I have lived with for so long. But it doesn’t end there, I want to categorically say evangelist Ravi Zecharias was an instrument of God and whatever he did was atrocious and disappointing especially to the women directly impacted. I think those two statements can be both true. Lastly, this:
It’s time to be humans and Christians because sin is the sickness that led to Jesus’s death. If I have none then I have no story of grace. To be Christian is to be needy and to humbly be at peace with His strength through my gaping weakness.
I invite your stories of weakness and sin. I know at least one friend that wants everything to do with it. His name is Jesus.
To be a fit vessel for use by God is to confront sin like David. To admit evil as evil and to confess it. To leave no room for sin to fester and to reward my conscience with the oil of His grace. We need more stories of repentance to sin that is the story of David, Paul, Peter, etc. God’s grace always sides with the marginalized, downtrodden and powerless; and seeking to protect my image over embracing the consequences of my sin, oh what a torturous existence and a blight to grace.