Give us time to forgive Ravi Zacharias
I just have to get it out of my system. My thoughts are all over the place, but I will try my best to sound coherent here. I have filtered and kept some of my most judgy comments to my bedroom talk with my husband. If you disagree with what I say here, please leave your counter arguments below in love and grace, be gentle with your words. I assume you would be since I am judgy and you are against my judgements, you should be one full of grace and forgiveness.
I was a big fan of Ravi and listened to many of his sermons and talks, up until the time he died. I was super upset when he passed away. But soon, I was completely floored and felt betrayed by Ravi when sexual allegations about his spa staff surfaced shortly after. I gave him a little benefit of doubt back then, but there is no smoke without fire (无风不起浪).
So when the investigative report came out to confirm everything, it didn’t come as a shock to me. A deep sigh let out. It is yet another leader who fell from grace, shortly after the Carl Lentz incident. I was glad that the victims got their vindication and justice.
Forgiveness and Grace
But alas, a few reflections written about the matter triggered me. Well, I am currently running on low emotional bucket. Thus, things and people easily ruffled my feathers, so forgive if my response is exaggerated to the point of over-reacting. There’s this urge to write and vent out my point of view. Take the plank out from my eye, but keep that discernment in me.
If you indeed have forgiven Ravi Zacharias (“Ravi”) like some pastors in Singapore, I am not writing to dissuade you from forgiving. I too would want people to forgive my failings.
I am writing to ask for that space and time for those who feel hurt and betrayed to heal and forgive.
I am still coming to grips with the depth/breadth of RZ’s individual abuse/RZIM’s institutional betrayal.
An abuser and his enablers must be ‘dragged out of the darkness.’
If we ‘forgive too soon,’ as the author does, we seal in the darkness under the pretence of light.Lori Anne Thompson’s Twitter
I am quoting the above from Lori Anne Thompson. She sued Ravi Zacharias in 2017 and signed a non-disclosure agreement as part of the settlement of that lawsuit.
RZIM’s open letter after the investigations addressed the Thompsons too: “We were wrong. Our trust in Ravi’s denial of moral wrongdoing and in his deceptive explanations of emails and other records that became public was severely misplaced, and our failures in 2017, including our failure to commission an independent investigation at that time, allowed tremendous pain to continue to be caused in the Thompsons’ lives.”
I believe God gave Ravi the grace by exposing his misdeeds after his death, saving him from a public humiliation.
God extended grace to Ravi, and gave him a chance to repent in 2017. To admit his wrongdoing and stop his indulgence in sexual sin. Of course, he had to pay a price if he admit it then (the public humiliation and erosion of his ministry).
We are all fallen. We are only human. Even King David committed adultery and conspired to murder, but he repented and cried out in remorse. He accepted the very dear price he had to pay (2 Samuel 12 – David Repents, But the Child Dies). Faith is therefore not about winning public trials so that we can hide (or indulge in) private ones.Edited from a comment on Salt and Light Facebook post.
In the end, Ravi chose to deny blatantly and continue his assaults, hoping no one will find out. What went on in his mind on deathbed? Was he wondering if he would go to heaven, or snickering that no one found about his transgressions?
One sin led to another sin (deception). Jesus came so we can receive the grace to repent and work out our salvation, not sin wilfully.
For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.Hebrews 10:26-27
If all unrepentant sins are forgiven by grace, why do we need to do the right thing anyway?
I understand that forgiving does not mean condoning a sin, nor implying a sin is right. But by forgiving too soon, are we enabling sinners with no intention to repent to flourish within the church? Because no worries, no matter how you sin wilfully, all will be forgiven. Is that abusing grace?
For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by his grace, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus,Romans 3:23-24
All have sinned doesn’t mean that all sins are equal. Just look at the impact and consequences on the victims for different sins. It’s one thing to forgive a comrade for lying or a pastor for betraying trust. It’s another thing to forgive the predator as a sexual assault victim.
In one sense, all sins are equal because any sin cuts us off from relationship with God (Rom. 3:23).
“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” — James 2:10
But this does not mean that all sins are equally heinous before God.thegospelcoalition.org
Sexual sin can destroy a person’s soul. What’s more by a trusted spiritual leader, the one who is supposed to be the one to help save the soul. The negative impact can go beyond the affected women and to her offsprings (future generations).
I only wish male leaders have more empathy for those who were sexually abused, knowing the depths of the hurt. To be angry with or for the victims, for just a little while more instead of quickly taking the side of their “enemy”. I mean even when we girls complain about day to day stuff, we want empathy and a listening ear first before solutions or worse, telling us a solution we want to least hear.
Sidetrack, and thinking out loud: What if it’s a female leader sexually abusing young boys? Will people be more disgusted? Will she be as easily forgiven?
Sexual and Clerical Abuse
This is a known pattern in sexual and clerical abuse: there is never just one victim. This is a historical pattern of abuse and deliberate institutional cover-up. The investigation was limited because they had limited access to evidence, and yet found so much conclusive evidence of sexual harassment and abuse, means there are very likely other victims that are yet unknown.
Ravi was not merely a “flawed man” who had a “moral failing” and “fell into temptation.” This was predatory and abusive behavior—grooming victims and using his position, charisma and intelligence to manipulate and exploit vulnerable women to get what he wanted.Facebook post by Cheryl You
I really feel indignant for the victims, bullied into silence by the authority of a minister and Christian organisation. People who should in the first place give voice to the powerless.
It’s a good time to look at the loopholes of the system, the filth and decay in the hidden corners, and not quickly sweep them under the carpet with the pretext of forgiveness. Speaking of which, I can’t stand to read things written with a perfunctory stance, with seemingly no real compassion for the victims. Perfunctory’s definition: “a (of an action) carried out without real interest, feeling, or effort.” It’s like Jesus is here, all’s good, leave it to God on His judgment day, let’s move on. But when Jesus was on earth, he also showed compassion for the weak and rebuked “godly” Pharisees.
Anyway I was researching for this article, I came across this by The International Bible Society:
Moral and Ethical Disorders in the Life of the Church (1 Corinthians 13:5–6)
- Laxity in Church Discipline (ch. 5)
- Lawsuits before Non-Christian Judges (6:1–11)
- Sexual Immorality (6:12–20)
Dig deeper, these are the verses from 1 Cor 5 that jumped out to me:
I wrote to you in the letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. By no means did I mean the sexually immoral people of this world or the greedy people and swindlers or idolaters, since then you would have to depart out of the world.
But now I have written to you not to associate with any so-called brother, if he is a sexually immoral person or a greedy person or an idolater or an abusive person or a drunkard or a swindler—with such a person not even to eat.
For what is it to me to judge those outside (people of this world)? Should you not judge those inside? But those outside God will judge. Remove the evil person from among yourselves.1 Corinthians 5:9-13
A Church Leader
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.Hebrews 13:7
It is not about putting Ravi or any pastor on the pedestal, he is already on the pedestal because of his position. In his position, he was to represent God on earth. Although techinically we all Christians are.
Ravi is not only a Christian, but a spiritual leader. A spiritual father. We naturally place our trust more in our family, even more so our father, than in a stranger. Hence for the same act, the hurt by a family member can run much deeper than by a stranger. The deeper the trust, the deeper the hurt.
“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!Matthew 18:6-7
In secular world, private failings of a leader are sometimes easily or quickly be forgiven because of his/her public achievements. I see that seeping in in this case. But should we really only look at Ravi’s thriving ministry and downplay his corroding integrity?
Leaders should be held to a higher standards than commoners because obviously their spheres of influence are larger. With great power comes great responsibility.
And spiritual leaders even to a higher standards, because Christians by right live to a higher moral standards than secular citizens. Moreover, spiritual leaders have an additional influence over the spiritual aspect of our lives, our holy of holies.
“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the flock of my pasture,” declares Yahweh.
Therefore thus says Yahweh, the God of Israel concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people, “You yourselves have scattered my flock, and you have driven them away, and you do not attend to them. Look, I will punish you for the evil of your deeds,” declares Yahweh.Jeremiah 23:1-2
Mind vs Heart
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’
And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’Matthew 7:21-23
These verses from Matthew came up very early in my reflections when the report came out. It serves as a reminder for myself not only to know God intellectually but also with the heart.
Head knowledge without a heartbeat is an empty vessel.
Prayer for the victims
I pray for healing and restoration in the victims’ lives and families.
I pray for the victims to see the love and faithfulness of God even in times of darkness.
I pray that they will be able to forgive eventually, for forgiveness brings healing.
Prayer for the wife and children
I’m not sure if his wife Margi knew about the truth before the report, but if she did, then her struggle would have started way earlier.
I pray for healing of their hearts.
I pray for protection against attacks on them, for the hurting wife and children might have to pay for the debt of their dead father.
I pray for wisdom over their choices.
Prayer for RZIM
RZIM is another collatoral damage of this expose.
I pray for the hearts of the workers to not be shaken, and to find their core and purpose in Jesus.
I pray that the good works by the organisation and its members will not be tainted by this incident. That they will continue to be a blessing to many.
Prayer for Self
I don’t believe Ravi started off his ministry with the intention to use his power to take advantage of women. Power and riches open doors of temptations. Then, small temptations snowballed. Temptation is crouching at the door for everyone, myself included.
Hence, this event is a reminder for us all to pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17) at all times, both in the bad and good, so that we will always keep God as our first love.
To stay rooted in His Word so temptations have no chance to enter our heart and mind.
To receive His grace when we fall. Know that we can keep falling, but we will have that grace to keep getting up to walk the right path.
To receive His love to continue to forgive and love sinners. To love me who sin, and those who sinned against myself and others. Only in forgiveness can we find freedom, yet let us not be jaded by the decays of morality. May we continue to feel and stand up for the weak and powerless.
Not in my strength, but in Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
I end with the first and last verses of 1 Corinthians 13, let everything we do and say be motivated by love.
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. …
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.1 Cor 13:1, 13