This week its Current Events week on the blog, and I’ve been been writing a five-part series about the failure of Ravi Zacharias (so far you can read part one, part two, part three, and this is part four). How do we respond to such a grievous failure?
It seems to me the primary response is that we must live in light of the truth that we are not intended to be alone. We are meant for community, including the checks and balances the community affords.
We should run towards being part of groups and having relationships with people who will speak the truth in love to us. We should welcome those relationships, not because they will be always fun and easy but because they are marked by people who love us enough to be with us in the good and bad times of life and who will speak truth in love when it is needed.
This means we need to see love not as a free for all, but as something that has checks and balances. Real love is guided by what is best for someone else. “By this all men will know you are my disciples that you love one another,” Jesus taught. What Ravi Zacharias did was not loving; it was incredibly hurtful to many vulnerable women. Furthermore, Zacharias committed his evil regularly with a built-in culture of secrecy and deceit.
Love, then, has boundaries. Love has accountability. Boundaries and accountability can seem to be constraining or blocking freedom. People might respond to accountability saying, “But we are free in Christ, and we should have relationships that are marked by freedom.” People who think like that, though, misunderstand the loving nature of boundaries and accountability. Loving boundaries and accountability are meant for good.
It seems that many of the leaders, like Ravi Zacharias, who abuse others have false accountability. They have very few or no relationships with people who could speak truthfully and boldly to them. They live double lives and no one knows it. Oftentimes leaders are isolated. People assume that leaders are doing great, that leaders love the Lord and are just walking in the Spirit all the time. Do not assume that about any Christian leader, including your pastor, your group leader or any Christian person you want to assume is living a consistent life of following Jesus.
Instead, make time to connect, to reach out in real community with those around you, including your leaders. The leaders in your life should be able to definitively explain and demonstrate for you how they are living consistent, accountable lives.
As I have mentioned earlier in this five-part series, the failure of Ravi Zacharias is not just applicable to leaders. Any of us can live a double life, unaccountable, isolated. We might even look real good on Sunday mornings, wearing our Sunday clothes and smiling, but we are hiding another side to our lives. That other side might not be as awful as Ravi Zacharias. It doesn’t have to be, though. Hear again what I said in the previous post: I am not saying that, in order to be genuine followers of Jesus, we have to be perfect. Absolutely not. What I am saying is that we should be living highly consistent lives. The choices and actions of our lives should be significantly in line with what we say we believe about Jesus. The Fruit of the Spirit should be evident in our lives. Regular, consistent participation in honest accountable relationships is vital to helping us pursue Christ.