Vice-President Mike Pence has been seeing his fill of Atlanta lately. Just last week he was in the city to discuss Georgia’s economic recovery with business leaders and local elected officials. Earlier today, however, he arrived for a much more somber occasion: the memorial service of Ravi Zacharias.
For those unfamiliar with the name, Ravi Zacharias was a prolific Christian speaker and writer whose work lay mostly in the field of Christian Apologetics (i.e. an intellectual defense of the faith). In this capacity he travelled the globe engaging with critics of the Christian religion and practitioners of other religions in spirited yet peaceful dialogue. Zacharias was known for a powerful intellect that he used in these discussions in places that were often unwelcoming, if not outright hostile, to the Christian faith. On May 19, Ravi Zacharias passed into eternity after a battle with cancer.
Speaking at the service, the Vice-President discussed some of the early life of Zacharias. He spoke of him growing up in India and then, at the age of seventeen, attempting suicide as he could not find any hope or reason for living in this world. It was during his recovery from this failed attempt to take his life that Zacharias came to the Christian faith. The Bible verse that influenced him most toward this decision was John 14:19 which states in part, “Because I live, you also will live.”
To a teen who had just attempted to take his life, these words had a profound effect. Young Zacharias prayed to Jesus, giving his life over to Him, and vowing to leave no stone unturned in his pursuit of the truth.
Through a series of immigrations, Zacharias left India, lived in Canada, and eventually ended up in the area of Atlanta where is ministry and search for the truth took on a global scope. It was there that he founded the ministry Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. This organization served as the platform from which he would travel the world and do large speaking engagements. Additionally, he ran a radio broadcast and was a prolific author.
During his eulogy, VP Pence described Zacharias as the greatest Christian apologist of this century. He called him a modern day C.S. Lewis. In this regard Pence was pretty close to the mark. Zacharias’ contributions to the field of apologetics has been substantial. Perhaps the foremost of these contributions was his list of four questions that a coherent worldview must answer. These questions are: where we came from, why we’re here, what is moral, and where are we going. Zacharias maintained that while every religion asserts an exclusive claim to the truth, only Christianity can answer these four questions in a coherent manner.
While Zacharias’ intellectual contributions to apologetics was substantial, it was, perhaps dwarfed in another way. Ravi Zacharias’ character was quite possibly the best argument anyone could make for the Christian faith. As an individual, he consistently displayed the fruit of the Spirit, written about by the Apostle Paul in Galatians, better than any other man. Every time he spoke, his words were marked by kindness and gentleness. Humility very rarely scene in a human being bled through in his self-deprecating humor and with it he disarmed many hostile critics.
While everyone who spoke at this memorial service talked of Zacharias’ amazing goodness and love for his fellow man, the Vice-President reminded those in attendance and those listening online of just why these traits made him such an effective apologist.
It was because of these traits that he had the ability to see every person as a fellow human being. It was of this he had the ability to see everyone as an individual who had a complex background that made them who they are. Every time a question was put to him, he would attempt to answer it with the mindset that there was another human being, created in the image of God, on the other side of that question.
This lesson is one that the Christian community needs to learn in their innermost being today. It may have escaped your notice, but this is a deeply divided country. As I type this, I have the news going on in the background and it is reporting mass riots in cities all across the nation. As I type this, two well-funded and large political parties are preparing to hammer it out in a long campaign season. As I write this, the President is in a tiff with the CEO of Twitter over how he has used the platform and how he feels he has been mistreated because of it. Things are ugly and they’re going to get uglier.
But they don’t need to be.
Maybe, if Christians can learn from Ravi’s example and remember that there are actual individuals on the other side of our disagreements, we can set the example. Maybe if Christians practice the type of humility that he did, we can show this country a better way to do politics.