Ravi Zacharias passed into eternity recently. Since 1971, he crisscrossed the globe carrying the message of Christ to the high class and low castes, to national leaders and religious followers, to prisoners and questioners. He spoke at universities and the United Nations, in public venues and in private meetings. The books he wrote, the lives he touched, the minds he trained still help believers think and thinkers believe.
I had the privilege of meeting him once. I approached him wondering if this highly respected, well-known man had the time. He did. After we exchanged pleasantries, I asked if I could hug him. He laughed and agreed! I also posed a question to him. “What is the greatest challenge facing the church today?” He responded that the church cannot afford to go off-message. We have the unchanging truth that the world needs and if we do not explain it, who will?
That truth is found in the inscription to be placed on his grave stone, “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19). Zacharias first heard those words at the age of 17 as he lay in a hospital bed after attempting suicide. Though he wanted to die, he learned from his Creator why he should live! In that moment he committed his life to finding and following truth.
In 1983, Billy Graham invited him to speak at a worldwide gathering of evangelists in Amsterdam. There, Zacharias declared that the message of Christ must be conveyed with respect to the hearer. That idea set the tone for the ministry he founded the next year. One of the hallmarks of RZIM is to host events where challenging questions may be asked. Zacharias believed, “Behind every question is a questioner.” Even though the speakers are academically qualified in philosophy, history, literature, law, and science, their goal is not to win an argument but offer respectful and reasonable responses to the questioner. RZIM now has over 100 speakers and writers from all over the globe conducting a worldwide ministry. Zacharias structured the organization to continue, even in his absence.
Zacharias’ method was to engage the mind, believing you need not check your intellect at the door to be a Christian. Yet he had a way of simplifying truth for the rest of us. He said, “The Christian faith, simply stated, reminds us that our fundamental problem is not moral; rather, our fundamental problem is spiritual. It is not just that we are immoral, but that a moral life alone cannot bridge what separates us from God. Herein lies the cardinal difference between the moralizing religions and Jesus’ offer to us. Jesus does not offer to make bad people good but to make dead people alive.”
Now in the land of the living, Ravi Zacharias (1946 – 2020).