Via Religion Unplugged

I was walking down the street in Singapore during my final year of Bible college when I noticed a peculiarly tall person with silver-grey hair walk past me through the crowd. It took me a moment to realize who it was and then a few more to believe it. I turned around and followed him cautiously to confirm my suspicions, caught up to him, and tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around and I asked him a silly question, “Are you Ravi Zacharias?”

Many years earlier I was an evangelist’s son wondering why I was a Christian and whether there was any truth to the Bible and its Jesus. Most Christianity seemed to me not much more than spiritual sloganeering, motivational inspiration and heightened sensation. I could see there was goodness in its morals, wisdom in its principles and soundness in its teaching but none of that meant it was true.

Ravi Zacharias3

Ravi Zacharias speaks to students at The Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics in 2018. PICTURE: Courtesy of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.

I remember hearing my first sermon on the uniqueness of Christ, on my walkman in Delhi: a lecture by Sunder Krishnan, brother-in-law to Ravi Zacharias. I learned his ministry’s RZIM library was a few minutes walk from my home. Every afternoon I would go and borrow a cassette, listen to the sermon and wallow in the wonder of the Gospel, repeating the process until I had exhausted their catalog and had no choice but to go through it again.

"In Ravi’s voice, I heard a confident, competent humility that was driven by love. In his vision, I saw a credible Christianity that was simply captivating. It was Ravi’s sermons that first showed me Jesus is not a believable lie. He is an unbelievable truth."

In Ravi’s voice, I heard a confident, competent humility that was driven by love. In his vision, I saw a credible Christianity that was simply captivating. It was Ravi’s sermons that first showed me Jesus is not a believable lie. He is an unbelievable truth. 

I was learning the truth could be tested but it was more than knowledge, the truth could be trusted because it was a person, and the truth could be tasted because it was a person who knew my name and had called me by name. I was learning the Jesus of the Bible is not simply true, He’s good and beautiful - a taste of heaven for the meek of the earth.

At the time, I was a university student being told religion was about thought control and if I thought any differently I was under its control. Far from learning how to think, I was being told what to think. It was Ravi’s sermons that first showed me how to think and that I could think boldly, freely and curiously about God because He loved to spend time with His students.

Later I found myself with speaking and preaching opportunities with questioners in university dorm rooms. I modeled myself after Ravi, to a fault. His stories were captivating. I told them. His arguments were compelling. I used them. His love, humility and compassion were genuine. I couldn’t fake them.

The fruit of the righteous is often more attractive than the root of the righteous. I had to find my own voice. Ravi’s gift was a fruit of the grace of God matched with the difficult, disciplined work of study. To this study, I devoted myself and went to Bible college in Singapore to prepare for a life in ministry.

Akshay Rajkumar

Akshay Rajkumar. PICTURE: Supplied

When I met him on the street in Singapore, I told him of the impact his preaching had on my heart, how it sealed my faith in Christ and drew me to be equipped for a life in ministry. He received my gratitude with humility and found a way to give me a compliment. He was kind to a student. From what I know, he was always that way. 

His legacy will not simply be his preaching but his example, followed by thousands upon thousands worldwide who continue to be charged to keep on keeping on until we finish our own race. 

Ravi’s passing was neither sudden nor a shock. For this, I am grateful. In India, often when someone leaves the country to go abroad, the whole family goes to the airport to bid them a tearful goodbye. In the past few weeks, his global church family was graciously given the chance to pray, to give thanks, and to say goodbye. But no amount of gratitude we had a chance to give him will match the welcome he has received from His Lord.

In one of his sermons, Ravi tells of the grief he felt when his mother passed away. He went to pray, and one word consumed his thoughts, “Gone. Gone. Gone.” He told of how God spoke to him then as if to say, “If you’re going to carry on this way, at least have the courtesy to complete the thought: “Gone, where?” 

We grieve because Ravi is gone. But we rejoice because we know where he has gone - to his mother, to his father, to his friends who went before him, to his faith heroes whose friendship he now enjoys, and to his Lord who chose him for Himself, kept him in Himself and has called him to Himself. Through the testimony of his own preaching, how well we now know this story is not a believable lie; it’s an unbelievable truth. The story is beautiful, the story is good, and the story is true.

Akshay Rajkumar is an author, publisher and pastor of a church in South Delhi. He studied literature in Delhi University and theology in Singapore Bible College. He has lived in Delhi since 1983.