The Hidden Consequences of Sexual Sin

I have refrained from commenting on the investigation of Ravi Zacharias until now, probably because like many people, I was shocked about the entire thing. After reading the final report, however, shock has turned to disgust. His legacy is forever tainted. 

Like so many other Christian apologists, I had learned so much from Ravi’s ministry. Some of the first books that drew me into studying apologetics were his – Jesus Among Other Gods and Can Man Live Without God. I even took two online courses through the RZIM Academy. I loved the ministry’s approach of having the intellectual meet the spiritual because that described me and my experiences so perfectly. I just couldn’t imagine the man who could defend God, Jesus, and the Bible so beautifully and so eloquently would be capable of such things.

But then it dawned on me, why wouldn’t he be capable of such things? The Bible describes our hearts as “desperately wicked” and “deceitful above all else.” Ravi Zacharias is not immune to that; and neither is anyone else. What Ravi has done is unacceptable and horrific. His status, ministry, and former reputation do not absolve him of this kind of atrocious behavior. 

As with all sexual sin, there is absolutely no excuse, no rationalization, and no justification for it. And God takes sexual sin very seriously. It is serious enough to be one of the ten commandments. “You shall not commit adultery.” In the Levitical law, it is punishable by death. Revelation 22:15 says, “Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” (Keep in mind that adultery and sexual immorality is defined as any sexual activity outside of marriage between a man and a woman.) Ravi repeatedly committed adultery, engaged in sexual immorality, and lied continuously to cover it up. He lied to save his reputation and to destroy the reputation of his victims.

Why take this sin so seriously? Because sexual sin destroys marriage. Marriage and family are the bedrock of society. Marriage is God’s institution for families to flourish. It is the stability for training up children in the knowledge of God. Marriage is the archetype of the relationship between Jesus (the bridegroom) and the Church (His bride).

Satan knows if he can destroy marriage as God intended, he can destroy what is good in this world. So he offers up sexual sin on a silver platter and allows us to reap our own destruction. Satan has normalized sexual sin so that we don’t even think twice about it. Sexual sin is in everything we consume. We watch movies about it, advertise with it, cheer for it on television shows, sing songs about it, make jokes about it, and celebrate it with parades. Satan has not only made sexual immorality a beautiful thing to us, but the most important thing to us.

Yet the reality of sexual sin is much different. When it happens in real life, it destroys the lives of everyone around it. In Ravi’s case, there are hundreds of women who are victims of his unwanted and inappropriate advances. Ravi abused his influence, his power, and his reputation as a man of God in order to abuse these women. None of these cases were simply two consenting adults engaging in a relationship. When there is a power imbalance like this, the relationship is never consenting. These were like an employer/employee relationship, one that is never fully consensual as a true loving relationship. One party is always holding power over the other in some form or fashion.

Sadly, these women aren’t even the only victims here. He has betrayed his wife and the vows he made to her before family, friends, and God to love and cherish her until death separates them. This betrayal is so much deeper than just the statement “he cheated.” His wife was committed to a man whom she thought was faithful and committed to her. Yet he was not any of that. She loved and supported him, yet he could not stay faithful to her. He betrayed her trust physically, emotionally, and spiritually. He not only was physically involved with other women but then was lying to everyone around in order to hide it. It is such a deep betrayal on so many levels. That wound leaves a deep and lasting scar.

He betrayed his children and his grandchildren, who now must live with the knowledge that their father and grandfather is a liar and a cheat. He violated every core virtue there is. And that is a difficult thing for a child to accept about their father. He is now someone who betrayed, not just their mother, but all of them, the very blessings that God had given him. You cannot separate the betrayal of his wife from the betrayal of his children. The two go hand in hand. He wounded his entire family.

Now all of his family and friends have to view their memories and experiences with him through the lens of his lies. When there is this kind of sexual sin, there is a mountain of lies that go along with its cover up. It distorts every part of the relationship. What other lies were told during all of this time? How far back does this betrayal go? For how long was his marriage a sham? How could he stand before people and declare this solid marriage of 45 years knowing what he was doing? When did he first break this marriage and family apart? Sexual sin permeates into everything and rots it from the inside out.

In Ravi’s case, this spreads out further from his personal relationships and bleeds into his ministry. How many people are now questioning the things that he taught in light of the lie he was living? How many other ministers and apologists were duped by his double life, including those of us far removed from it? Ravi’s lies are a betrayal to all of us who trusted him and who considered him to be a man of God, speaking great truth. His sexual sin and lies brings every relationship, every memory, every statement, into question based on, not just his sexual exploits, but the pattern of lies, secrecy, and betrayal.

But Ravi didn’t just abuse his own power and reputation, he abused the very name of God. In the words of Dennis Prager, an articulate Old Testament and Hebrew scholar, the violation of the third commandment is not just saying the Lord’s name in vain, but carrying the Lord’s name into our sin. Ironically, I heard him speak on this at an event alongside Ravi. And this report describes Ravi as justifying his sexual abuse of these women with prayer and God’s blessing. Ravi has blasphemed the very name of God that he preached by carrying it into his sexual sin. This should bother every Christian.

This is the far reaching devastation of sexual sin. Paul describes these damaging effects in 1 Corinthians 6:18-19: “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

Sexual sin not only wreaks havoc on so many innocent bystanders, but it directly damages the person committing the sexual sin. Instead of gaining pleasure, the person is slowly drinking their own poison. It actually changes the chemistry in the brain. And when indulged in repeatedly, it sears the conscience until the brain is numb to any guilt or conviction about it. It leads to a hardness of heart and a blindness to sin. We are warned against that in Romans 2:5. “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.”

This hardness of heart was evident in Ravi when he refused to repent back in 2017. When the first accusations of his misconduct were brought to light, Ravi had the opportunity to confess, apologize, and repent. But his conscience was so seared to his sin, he persisted in his lies and cover up — lies intent on salvaging his reputation and on making his accusers look like they were crazy. He lost out on the chance to attempt to repair the brokenness he had caused to so many women, to stop his continued sexual abuse of others, and to restore his own soul from the depths of his sin.

As Paul told the church in Corinth, they were to take the sinning member, one committing such heinous sexual sin that even the pagans would not do, and put him outside of the church “so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” Rather than falling on his face like David when confronted by Nathan, Ravi doubled down on his lies and betrayal.

Ultimately this all comes down to selfishness. Ravi chose to put himself first above everyone and everything else. He thought only of his selfish, fleshly desires instead of his wife, his family, his ministry, and most importantly, the God he claimed to follow. He wanted what he wanted when he wanted it. But in order to truly follow Jesus, we are to deny ourselves, which means setting aside what we want now and yielding to what God wants. We are to pray for His kingdom come, His will be done, which means setting aside our will and yielding to God’s desires.

None of us do that perfectly. But this was a long lasting persistent lifestyle of sin. Ravi willingly chose again and again to initiate and engage in such horrific sexual immorality, against his wife and family and against these innocent women. When confronted with it, he refused to repent, to his own detriment.

Ravi, and others who do likewise, would do well to remember King David after his sexual sin with Bathsheba. While David still faced the consequences of his adultery, his humble confession to God allowed his soul to be restored. Let that be your example if you find yourself struggling with sexual sin. Make confession before God and before those whom you have harmed and are continuing to harm with your choices of sexual sin.

Read Psalm 51 to get a picture of what true confession looks like. David cried out for mercy before a just God, knowing his sin deserved judgment. Yet he longed for the restoration of his soul and the return of the joy of his salvation. He came to God with a broken and contrite heart, and desired in return a clean heart and a steadfast spirit. He repented before God and turned from his wickedness to walk in pursuit of Godliness again. That is how we should rightly respond to our own sinful condition.

Though this has rocked the Christian world, it is not the first and sadly will not be the last Christian leader placed on a pedestal who will fall. We must remember, though Ravi was not living the life he claimed to be living, the truths he spoke are still true. His abhorrent behavior does not negate the truth of Christianity. Thankfully we do not put our trust in people who proclaim truth; we put our trust in the one who is truth.

“Were they ashamed because of the abomination they have done? They were not even ashamed at all; They did not even know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; At the time that I punish them, They shall be cast down,” says the Lord.

Jeremiah 6:15

4 thoughts on “The Hidden Consequences of Sexual Sin”

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    Difficult subject. I admire you for taking this on, Cathryn.

    Ravi also used ministry funds to “groom” his victims and to cover up his sexual immorality. When confronted in 2017, he sued one of his victims and put her under a non-disclosure agreement. When some of his ministry employees found his explanations for that relationship less than credible, he said that was “Satan” attacking him and pretty much shunned those in his own ministry who had questioned him. In some ways, the second sin of bearing false witness was worse than the first. Some, not all. Interestingly, it was an atheist who saw through him, going back to the days when Ravi overstated his academic credentials. These were all warning signs, but there were others, none of which in and of itself is a huge red flag, but taken together might be. These are a few that I understand to be true, may God forgive me if I am incorrect:

    1. His ministry was named after him. What’s up with that? What happened to “He must become greater, I must become less?!?”
    2. He received hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in salary, not counting book deals, and taken together, his family received something like a million a year.
    3. He took frequent “writing trips” to Asia, attended by one other male employee and sometimes a masseuse. But, not with his wife and family. Many of the books we have read by him may have been written in that environment, which is why the one I owned is now in the trash. (That is not a hypocritical ad hominem like it would be if I said “I threw away Corrie ten Boom’s books because she sometimes had a short temper, by her own admission.”)
    4. I did not follow his ministry, because he seemed a little too slick for me (now we know why), but it has been said by many who did follow his ministry that he spoke a lot about Jesus and the Christian faith but not so much, or so harshly, about sin, Judgment, and Hell-fire. This sort of easy-believism is rampant in the modern Western churches, but was largely unknown prior to a half century ago or more. It is certainly NOT the Way of Christ or the first disciples. We must ask ourselves if the heroes and heroines of the historical Faith that we have studied and been so inspired by would even recognize THEIR faith in today’s churches. We STILL see many of Ravi’s fans trying to defend him or say that it doesn’t matter that much because he once said a prayer and “once saved, always saved,” none of which has anything to do with being a born again follower of Jesus Christ. In Ravi’s case, he did so much more in his apologetics ministry, but, alas, we also know that works do not save, and that unrepentant serial sexual immorality covered up by unrepentant serial false witness is not a great way to get into the Kingdom.

    Have we all maybe gotten a little too slick and prosperous in our faith? (Confession: I have.) We need to ask ourselves if our ministries and our churches resemble in any way, shape, or form the NT Church? A lot of this goes back to pride, and virtue signalling, rampant in the Western churches, is pride too. Have we become a nation of pretenders? Some say “God knows my heart,” but that phrase should terrify anyone who knows the Bible verses about the heart being ever deceitful. Perhaps the most disturbing thing I read was that Ravi called his sexual immorality his “reward” for his ministry and even prayed with his victims “for this opportunity” as he was molesting them.

    The OT Jewish leaders knew that sexual immorality was so damning (and worthy of the death penalty) that they put up fences around it, asking their followers to lower their gaze in the presence of women, etc. They said, in essence, “don’t even look at a woman not your wife, because that might LEAD to adultery. Jesus went even further when he EQUATED looking at a woman in lust WITH adultery. In our sex-saturated culture that makes most men, and a lot of women, guilty of adultery, according to Christ.

    We all have secret sins that we take to the grave, but we sure do not want to be PRACTICING sin on the way there and bearing false witness to cover it up. It isn’t “piling on Ravi” to want to learn from his fall. We want to cultivate a repentant heart and finish well, because Jesus was not kidding around when He spoke about sin, Judgment, and Hell. He came to save us FROM our sins, not TO our sins.
    Christ is not a fan of hypocrites, but especially not religious hypocrites. He saved His harshest language for them. Let us all pray for repentant hearts, and that we might finish well in service to Him. In light of this colossal fall, I sure am.

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