Rarely do I write about politics or news events, but this week, my heart is burdened over the recent investigation into the life of a well-known Christian apologist, Ravi Zacharias. For decades, he has been a defender of the faith, a person other pastors and teachers looked to and emulated. He helped spread the gospel to thousands, if not millions of people all over the world. When he died in May of 2020, we mourned the loss of a spiritual icon, but more recently his name is associated with perversion and shame.
Sexual abuse, misconduct, and even rape have been named as actions synonymous with Ravi Zacharias. At first, my heart broke. This man I revered and looked up to all these years was suddenly a fraud. But my second thought scared me a little-this could easily happen to any spiritual leader.
Teachers, pastors, evangelists-all of these roles require someone rising to the top and grabbing the reins of leadership. It can be quite lonely at the top. Spiritually speaking, it’s easy to believe lies that since you are a leader, you should have it all together; you shouldn’t stumble or fall anymore because you are expected to be more. The expectation to lead well, perform, and set the example creates pressure, but also a sense of isolation. If leaders admit a struggle, their leadership could be questioned. If leaders confess their darkest sins, then who would want them in charge?
Pride sneaks in. Arrogance hides the “small” sins. Self-protection and denial slink in the back door and we hold hands with justification. Preachers, teachers, evangelists, we all know the right things to say. We give advice and council as smoothly as we recite the pledge. Knowing truth is never the problem; but allowing that truth to permeate our hearts often is.
As I read the open letter presented by RZIM, the parent ministry for Ravi Zacharias, a phrase stood out to me: they “failed to love well.” Love isn’t just a mushy gushy feeling. Love isn’t always hugs and affirmation. Often loving someone well means meeting them in their choices and confronting them in their sin. It means checks and balances. Accountability. Opening their eyes to sin so close to them that they can no longer recognize it because of excuses.
And when that confrontation comes, we as leaders should embrace the other person in humility. There needs to be grief and sorrow over the hidden sins we carry. Integrity should manifest as we admit our shortcomings and repent wholeheartedly. When someone gets the courage to confront another person from a place of love and sincerity, that, my friend, is the definition of loving well. And when they follow up by holding our feet to the fire and asking us hard questions, requiring huge life changes-that’s real love.
But I don’t think this is just for leaders; this is for all followers who claim the name of Christ. Everyone will fall. Even Christians. Every one of us has secret struggles, baggage from our past, and junk we wade through daily, no matter how far down the path of following God we may be. NO ONE is immune to falling. NO ONE. Not me. Not you. Not Ravi.
The mark of maturity is in how we get up. Do we cover it up? Do we push it under the rug and write it off to a bad day? Are we sad people saw our weakness and vow to keep it hidden? Or are we humble? Do we admit our failures? Is there grief and repentance over our behavior? Do we seek out accountability and confess our struggles regularly to another person who will speak consistent truth into our lives?
Preachers, teachers, evangelists, we must be accountable to someone. No one should ever do it alone. And when we fail, because all of us will, we need to have surrounded ourselves with other like-minded individuals who will choose to love us well. Confession is not a weakness. Accountability isn’t just for new believers. And repentance is only an utterance away. Don’t let the position of leadership become a hindrance in the process of humility. Let us always choose to love well.