In one of his books, Sense and Sensuality, Ravi Zacharias imagines a conversation between Jesus and Oscar Wilde. He wrote these words in the introduction,
“Few figures in literature merit both genuine admiration and profound pity as much as Oscar Wilde. He was a genius. Yet sadly, he floundered and struggled with habits and propensities that ultimately crushed him beneath their weight. As I read and re-read his biographies, at times my heart ached for him in his struggles, and at other times I marveled at the sheer folly with which he threw his life away. Like an object caught in the tension of two opposing forces, his body and mind were torn between the love of God and the enticement of the sensual.”
Ravi Zacharias, Sense & Sensuality: Jesus talks to Oscar Wilde
Ravi scolded Oscar Wilde for not listening to God and giving into his lust and sensuality. Yet, if I were to write a book on Ravi today, I could write the same words about Ravi.
“Few figures in Christendom merit both genuine admiration and profound pity as much as Ravi Zacharias. He was a genius. Yet sadly, he floundered and struggled with habits and propensities that ultimately crushed him beneath their weight. As I read and re-read the news stories, at times my heart ached for him in his struggles, and at other times I marveled at the sheer folly with which he threw his life away. Like an object caught in the tension of two opposing forces, his body and mind were torn between the love of God and the enticement of the sensual.”
Ravi probably wrote this book on Oscar Wilde while a Thai woman giving him a sensual massage in his private apartment in Bangkok. I am not making fun of Ravi. He spent tons of days studying the life of Oscar Wilde yet he did not take time to control the ‘Oscar Wilde’ lurching in his own body into the subjection to the Lord.
Hundreds of photos of women on his phone, sensual messages, apartments in Bangkok …..It is hard to digest that a man of Ravi’s calibre could stoop down to that level. But that is the deceptiveness of sin. Remember Adam who listened to Satan, Noah who was drunk, Abraham who lied, David who lusted after Bathsheba, Moses who struck the stone in anger, Peter who denied the Lord, and now Ravi who went to massage parlors to get sensual touches all over his body.
It reminds me the words of Nazi leader Albert Speer who said, ‘One seldom recognizes the devil when he is putting his hand on your shoulder ‘. Ravi failed to see the devil standing beside him when he opened two spas near his headquarters.
One former manager says that Ravi was spending way too much time with an Indian woman in one of the private rooms of the spa. Ravi enjoyed the friendship of both Billy Graham and Vice President Mike Pence. Ravi should have followed Graham Rule or Mike Pence Rule, which states, “Never put yourself in the company of a woman who is not your wife”. It might sound sexist but it protected the reputation of Billy Graham and Mike Pence from sex scandals. Ravi talked about Graham Rule many times but it seems he failed to follow it in his own life. To be fair, that rule is very hard to follow.
According to CT, three former employees complained that Ravi’s actions amount to “more than massage”. They reported that he exposed himself or touched his private parts before them or even touched them inappropriately. Now we know their reports are true.
Ravi kept photos of hundreds of women on his phone. He is knowingly stayed unrepentant of his sin for over a decade. Even after blaming Lori Anne for ‘extortion’, he continued to exchange nude videos of other women.
What can we learn from this?
1. Do not visit spas: Now we might ask, is it appropriate for a Christian to visit spas and get body massage? Ravi had back pain issues and he used it to justify his massage therapies. Now, I also have back pain and I also travel around the world. In my experience, every time I thought of going to a spa, it was always a carnal desire, never about my back pain. I always imagined a cute young woman rubbing my back. I might use ‘back pain’ as a pretext but God knows the intents and desires of our hearts. It is better to stay away from these places. If you really need help with your back pain, consider physical therapy or chiropractic therapy from a person of your sex. If you are a male, get massage from a male therapist and if you are a female from a female. That protects you from vicious temptations. So, the point is it is always good to seek body touching treatments from a person of your sex, not of opposite sex.
If Ravi really needed a female therapist, he should have taken his wife as a chaperone. That would have saved him from these allegations. Sin cannot be contained. We see in Ravi’s case, that what started as a massage soon became sex in many instances.
It is better not to go where there is nudity. Not long ago, one morning, I went to our local YMCA to swim. Their rule was to take a shower before you jump into the pool. I went to take a shower. I kept my shorts on because I hate disrobing in front of others. As I was rubbing my body with the soap, one older gentleman approached me with a smile. He was fully nude, with a pot belly and his genitalia hanging. He asked me, “Are you from India or Pakistan?” I replied, “India”. Then he asked me, “Indians and Pakistanis: why do you guys always fight? You are neighbors, you both eat chicken tikka masala.” I gave him a 10 minute answer explaining various factors. But I disliked talking to this fully nude male. From then onwards, I stopped even going to YMCA. Don’t expose your genitalia to strangers. There should be some privacy. Our English word ‘gym’ came from the Greek word ‘Gymnaseum which means ‘naked’. The Bible advises us to honor our bodies. It starts with covering our bodies with clothes.
2. Dress properly appropriate for a Christian: Some men and women are dressing like prostitutes. Ravi was making himself nude in these spas. Yet, he had gall to criticize Oscar Wilde.
3. Don’t touch anyone inappropriately. One day I went to a meeting in Orlando, Florida. During introductions, one woman came to me and said, ‘I need a hug’. So I gave her a hug. While hugging, her breasts touched my chest. It was a carnal experience. It is better to limit our introductions to ‘shake hands’. Women’s breasts touching our chests is not appropriate. I stopped giving hugs to members of the opposite sex after Orlando experience. Ravi should not have touched his massage girls inappropriately. He talked a lot about the sacredness of human beings.
4. Don’t do business in ‘body’ industry: Ravi opened his own massage centers. At the end of the day, combining preaching and massage business don’t sound good. Christians should not be in ‘massage’ business.
5. Deceptiveness of sin: According to one woman, Ravi said because he is carrying so much ‘burden’ for others he is justified in seeking pleasure from her in the form of a sensual massage. This is the classic case of deceptiveness of sin. King David thought within himself, ‘Because I carry so much ‘burden’ for the nation of Israel, I am justified in having one soldier’s wife’. Doing great things for God never gives you permission to sin. That one sin brought down David; this one sin tarnished the reputation of Ravi forever.
6.Calibrate your conscience: All things considered, Ravi was definitely not as rotten as Jerry Falwell Jr who was watching his wife engaging in adultery with another man or Jack Schaap, who was sinning with teenage girls. John MacArthur often talks about vanished conscience. When we lose our God given conscience, we commit horrible sins, often worse than unbelievers.
7. Sin has victims: the entire nation of Israel suffered due to David’s sin with Bathsheba. If their stories are true, these women will suffer the consequences of Ravi’s sins. RZIM might suffer loss of financial support and flight of its speakers. It is sad and heart breaking because RZIM has good, God-fearing speakers. Countless Christians are disheartened by what Ravi did to these women.
8. Don’t drag God into your sins: Reportedly, after having sex with one of his victims, Ravi prayed with her and thanked God for the ‘opportunity’. What a heartless blasphemy! Let us not pull God into our sins. He is too holy to give us ‘opportunity’ to sin.
9. Let us get rid of ‘Celebrity Christians’: Only Jesus Christ our Lord is worthy of our adulation. But alas, over the last few decades, we made celebrities out of our pastors, evangelists, and musicians. These celebrities are often rotten to the core. Let us stop worshiping these celebrities and worship only our Lord Jesus Christ.
10. More accountability from our leaders: Let us not give a pass to our Christian leaders. We should be demanding more accountability on their behavior and finances.