Conviction and Compassion: What We Can Learn from Ravi Zacharias

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By Adam Denny

The church has lost a favorite son. Few men have affected modern Christianity and garnered more respect within the Christian faith than Ravi Zacharias. A world renown apologist, Zacharias had an unparalleled way of presenting a compelling Savior through the lens of any worldview, and he seemed almost supernaturally gifted to relate to diverse contexts. His unique backstory as a child from India who moved to the West placed him on ministry platforms few have experienced. Due to his philosophical brilliance and oratorical genius, Zacharias reached millions of people with the gospel of Jesus. From a variety of churches and denominations, to Ivy League campuses, to capitol buildings and international meetings, Zacharias seems to have been handed a pulpit by God before the nations.

The Lord endowed Zacharias with a gift of gospel proclamation much like that of the Apostle Paul in Athens as he encountered people from all walks of life and built a bridge to God’s message of salvation found in Christ alone (Acts 17). With his ability to tell stories that illustrate truth, Zacharias informed the mind, stirred the heart and challenged the will of any who gave him a fair hearing.

The Apostle Peter exhorted the early church to “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet 3:15b ESV). This call to defend the hope of the gospel was one Zacharias gladly lived out before the world.

What most impressed me about Zacharias was how he went about obeying God’s instructions. Namely, Zacharias modeled that to reach a mind you must gently touch a heart.

Ravi Zacharias had an uncanny ability to give a defense of the most offensive message (the gospel) without being an offensive person.

Reaching Minds, Touching Hearts

We live in an age in which respectful dialogue and simple civility has been buried under the polarization of competing ideas in the public square. Zacharias, with firmly rooted biblical convictions, was a gentle respecter of all people. He cut through both historical and modern philosophical frameworks to deconstruct anything that opposed the truth of God’s gospel and gently disarmed those who attempted to contend with his message. He was a master orator, an articulate lover of poetry, a practitioner of apologetics, and he displayed a pastor’s heart.

Zacharias combined strong convictions with compassionate argumentation as he crisscrossed the globe year after year, decade after decade, giving a defense of the Christian faith and offering hope to those far from God while maintaining respectful dialogue with those who opposed his message. He seemed to firmly understand the reality that those in bondage to sin and the ideologies they propagate so well are not the true enemy, but are captives who need to hear of an escape and hope for deliverance. He had an uncanny ability to give a defense of the most offensive message (the gospel) without being an offensive person.

With his passing, the Christian faith now has a void and a revived need for those who can articulate and defend the hope we have while being gentle and kind in our public discourse. We need a firmness in our convictions and beliefs and a gentleness in our disposition. Zacharias was compelled by love for his fellow man to share the message of hope through faith in Jesus. Christians everywhere must continue the proclamation and defense of the truth with similar veracity and gentleness. Like Zacharias, we must carry the message of hope and not drop the torch-light of truth. As we do, we must hold it with a firm grip and a kind spirit. We must be wise in the truth and gentle in our presentation of it.

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)

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Adam Denny

Adam serves as pastor of North Run Baptist Church in Richmond, VA, where he lives with his wife and three children. He also is pursuing a D.Min. from Southeastern Seminary.

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