For almost a decade, I’ve been working out six days a week at the gym with Ravi Zacharias.
OK, Ravi hasn’t actually been there with me in person. Truth be told, I only met him once in the flesh at an event in Chicago many years ago.
But as I grind through my workouts, his voice has been my constant training partner via my iPod. Over the years, I’ve learned so much from him through his messages as well as his books. However, there’s one thing that has risen above everything else (at least for me) when it comes to all the instruction I’ve received from him.
Making his enemies be at peace with him
It could certainly be the way his keen intellect is able to tie philosophy and religion together in a way that personifies what Francis Schaeffer said, which is that good philosophy and good religion always arrive at the same destination.
It could easily be courage in the face of opposition given that Ravi has traveled constantly to locations that are either downright dangerous or extremely antagonistic to the Christian faith such as the many secular university settings where he’s spoken.
Given that Ravi has serious back problems and has steel rods surgically placed into his back, I could talk about his perseverance under extreme adversity as he traveled constantly to meet in person with non-Christians.
However, for me, the most important thing I’ve learned from Ravi over the years of reading and listening to him is: how to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). Believe me, in today’s world, this is much more easily said than done.
I must have heard Ravi say a thousand times, there’s no use cutting off a person’s nose and then giving them a rose to smell. Sadly, the snark levels of our culture have reached such an all-time high that we see much more nose-snipping than rose-giving.
However, I dare you to find one podcast, book, article, Q&A session, etc., where you find Ravi being unkind, insensitive, ungracious, etc., to people with his words. Trust me, it’s an exercise in futility.
Moreover, I want you to listen to his tone and manner when he speaks to people. All speakers have a unique signature and way of ‘striding through their words’ when they engage individuals.
As hard as I try, I can’t think of another Christian speaker whose manner of conversation oozes with more grace, respect and love. I have little doubt this is one reason why he was invited to speak in so many settings that are otherwise exclusionary and hostile to Christianity; he was clearly a man whose life pleased the Lord so much that he caused even his enemies to be at peace with him (Prov. 16:7).
The greatest compliment
I did my Ph.D. dissertation on the apologetics of the Apostle Paul. During my research, one declaration Paul made in his epistles stood out to me more than anything else.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul says: “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). I don't know about you, but even after decades of being a Christian and growing in Christ, I am nowhere near being able to make that charge to others.
But if I pause and give serious thought as to who could actually make that statement and get away with it today, Ravi qualifies. And what greater compliment could a Christian be given than to say he/she reflects Christ?
Thank you Ravi for teaching me the importance of speaking the truth in love and mirroring Christ so well. I already miss you, but at the same time through watery eyes I delight in saying: good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Master (Matt. 25:21).
Robin Schumacher is a software executive and Christian apologist who has written many apologetic articles, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at various apologetic events. He holds a Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament.