Remembering Ravi and Those Who Came before Us
Spiritual mother, spiritual grandfather, sister in Christ, brother in Christ—these are all names that don’t come naturally for me to use. I use them though, because the imagery they cast is significant and meaningful. It is imagery of a spiritual family tree that ties you to those that came before you and those that stand beside you in your faith in Jesus.
It is imagery that confesses that we do not get anywhere spiritually alone.
We all stand on the shoulders of the Christians that came before us, teaching, discipling and loving the people around them. They in turn stand on the shoulders of those that came before them, until you trace the spiritual genealogy all the way back to Jesus.
I write this the day of the memorial service for Ravi Zacharias. He was buried a week ago yesterday. I think of Ravi as my spiritual grandfather—or perhaps spiritual uncle? I’ll explain.
As I grew up in a very conservative, traditional church, I recall I was trained in all of the Bible-based rules, but the church did not lean into the relational side of God or promote the power of the Holy Spirit. I knew the stories and the facts. I knew Jesus was real and I could tell you He cared. But I wasn’t solid in my understanding of my relationship to Him and His Kingdom, my position on His family tree, or in the history of the church.
As many who understand relational dynamics will tell you, there is a formula that almost always proves true: rules minus relationship equals rebellion. I knew a lot about what I should do, who I should be, but I was not clear on how I ended up there or why.
My college years saw me in that rebellious posture—a “prodigal” phase—and chasing a minor in philosophy. An education in philosophy in a secular state school was an education in how to metaphysically justify any sinful behavior you wished. It was not good for my soul.
Flash forward, through several more years of poor choices and disappointed loved ones. Eventually, I reached a turning point.
My spiritual father (who happens to also be my dad) sent me just the right book at just the right time.
It was a book by the leader of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Canada, Joe Boot. Joe’s book Why I Still Believe was a light for me. (I have to note here that I don’t revisit that book very much; it is written in a narrative style that I don’t prefer—but to me that makes it all the more extraordinary that the Holy Spirit could use it to affect me.) It was the flash point for my saving faith.
If it were not for the love and commitment of praying parents, for Joe Boot’s written testimony, or for the ministry Ravi built to promote His message, where would I be? Even my conservative, rule-based church upbringing—however much I rebelled against it—planted important seeds for my future character!
I did not get here alone.
Mark Moore, in chapter 2 of his book Core 52, reminds us that we do not have a “personal” Lord and Savior. Rather, we are built into a body—the body of Christ—and called into a Kingdom.
Communion is not the individualistic rite we have often made it, but, as the name itself indicates, it is a communal celebration. Studying each book of the Bible shows how each part was written to communities. Scripture also describes how prayer and the study of Scripture can be corporate acts of worship—not just private contemplative exercises.
We are Christians because another cared enough to share the Gospel with us.
Because someone shared it with them. Because someone wrote it down. Because someone prayed for the Holy Spirit to move. We are a family, children of the one true King. We did not make it alone.
If it were not for the love and commitment of praying parents, for Joe Boot’s written testimony, or for the ministry Ravi built to promote His message, where would I be?
Many will remember Ravi during his memorial as I write today. I will be crying grateful tears today for the shoulders I stand on, and expressing thanks to those that introduced me to them.