Was Ravi Zacharias Like King David?

Published January 13, 2021

Gentlemen, the first step to correcting any error is always the step of repentance. And unless we are willing to say, ‘I was wrong,’ we will never know how to follow His right.

And Sir, what I say to you is, that if you were to look at the secular world today, they convince you that stolen waters are sweet, they try to tell you that every new experience is going to bring you something you never had before. There is a crass Spanish proverb that says, “He who loves one woman has loved them all, he who loves many has loved none.”

Sin has a ripple effect. You never, ever sin alone. Because when you sin, you are changed. And when you are changed you will affect somebody else. And when we talk about victimless crimes in our society, they might be legal, sociological, psychological terms. They are not Biblical concepts. There is no such thing as a victimless crime. If I victimize myself some way in sin, I am victimizing my children, you can be sure. Society is solid. It is connected. And the whole principle of Adam and Eve is the solidarity of man as through one man sin came into the world, so shall righteousness ultimately to the person of Christ. But man is not dismembered from society. He is not an island. He is connected. And please notice how David’s ripple effect is going to go through his home. And nobody sitting here will go untouched by the heartbreaking nature of this story.

I don’t want us to live in somebody else’s guilt but I want us to face up to our own.

— Ravi Zacharias, “Divided Heart, Divided Home” (a message on King David)

As the shocking news of Ravi Zacharias’ abuse of women has spread around the world, many believers have suggested that he was just like King David. Perhaps as you read this post, you believe this is a fitting and even Biblical comparison.

Here are some representative statements of this feeling:

  • “What Ravi left for us is greater than his sin. I’m reminded of David in the Old Testament.”
  • “Men of God do fall into sin, King David being a prime example, but I do hope he found God’s forgiveness before he passed away.”
  • “Remember, David had a heart for God but fell not only into sexual sin, but murder too. I’m sure Ravi hated what he struggled with and prayed about it often. Either way, this is a great example to lift up God alone.”

So let’s consider together the similarities – and the differences – between King David and Ravi Zacharias.

As we do so, please understand that a great deal is at stake. If the comparisons that are drawn between King David and Ravi Zacharias are not accurate, then Christians could present a misleading impression of God’s character and his moral standards.

We do not want to dishonor God’s name in an effort to preserve Ravi’s reputation.

Please know that this post was uncomfortable to write.

I think it will be uncomfortable to read.

I wrote it anyways: because the truth matters to me and I believe it matters to you.

So let’s carefully examine our question: was Ravi Zacharias like King David?

Both King David and Ravi Zacharias Sexually Abused Women

The candor with which the Scriptures presents the egregious flaws of its central figures is commendable. The Bible itself tells us – right in 2 Samuel 11 – that David raped Bathsheba. This isn’t a secret.

As for Ravi Zacharias, Miller & Martin’s interim report states,

…we have found significant, credible evidence that Mr. Zacharias engaged in sexual misconduct over the course of many years. Some of that misconduct is consistent with and corroborative of that which is reported in the news recently, and some of the conduct we have uncovered is more serious.

Miller & Martin Interim Report

Both King David and Ravi Zacharias Attempted A Cover-Up

In 2 Samuel 11, David repeatedly attempts to fool Uriah into thinking that he impregnated his wife Bathsheba.

However, when the ‘soft’ cover-up failed, David took a more drastic approach: he commanded Uriah’s death. In a devious way, David required the unsuspecting Uriah to carry his own death sentence back to his commanding officer!

In Ravi’s relationship with Lori Anne Thompson, we note a similar pattern of deception.

At first, Ravi tried to play nice with Brad and Lori Anne, seeking to smooth things over.

But when the soft attempt didn’t silence their voices, Ravi showed a harder edge. His carrot-and-stick approach involved filing a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) lawsuit against the Thompsons, which would have been expensive for them to fight. Then he provided $250,000 as payment in exchange for a non-disclosure agreement.

Finally, Ravi turned to his own global platform — Ravi Zacharias International Ministries — in order to proclaim his innocence and slander his silenced victims.

The specifics of how Ravi covered up his sexual misconduct with massage therapists are not yet publicly known. However, in at least one case, he asked his business partner to “delete all his appointments from the software program the spa used, and to remove Zacharias as a customer.”

Both King David and Ravi Zacharias Shared Truth

King David is honored as the most prolific author of the Psalms. As many as seventy-five of the hundred and fifty Psalms may be attributed to him. For centuries, God’s people have continued to benefit from these Psalms.

Ravi Zacharias is well-known for his Let My People Think program, 28 books, and talks given across the world. His words were heard or read by tens of millions of people around the world. In these messages, he shared important truths. Listening to Ravi may have been a daily or weekly habit for you, for decades, in a very meaningful way.

Given these similarities, many Christians suggest that there is a strong resemblance between King David and Ravi Zacharias.

That is, in both men we can observe tremendous sin and tremendous impact.

However, to be fair – to seek the truth – we also need to consider the significant differences.

A Different Commission

King David plays an important role in God’s redemptive plans. While the full significance of David’s life is beyond the scope of this brief article, let’s note the covenant that God makes with David in 2 Samuel 7:1-17.

In verse 16 we read, “And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.”

David, and the kings that followed him, did not have the moral character to be the true king of God’s people. This pattern revealed the shortcomings of all human authority.

God’s promise to David pointed forward to Jesus, the true King, whose authoritative rule is characterized by humble servanthood and complete goodness.

By contrast, Ravi was offered the responsibility of Christian leadership.

In James 3:1 we are told, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”

The reason Ravi is being “judged with greater strictness” – despite the affection that many have for him and his teaching – is because this is a godly, Biblical response.

A Different Response To Confrontation

When Nathan famously confronted King David – “You are the man!” – David immediately and openly acknowledged his sin. He repented. He fasted and prayed. He wrote Psalm 51. In Psalm 51:17 we read, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

Even though David repented, God still held him accountable. “Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house…I will raise up evil against you out of your own house…For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun” (2 Samuel 12:10-12).

David’s sin was secret. God’s exposure and judgment was public.

By contrast, as far as we know, Ravi never acknowledged his sin of sexual abuse. He never publicly repented of it.

For instance, when Anna Adesanya, a manager at Ravi’s spa, confronted Ravi, “He did not admit it—he became defensive.” Further, “after the meeting, Adesanya said, Sharma [Ravi’s co-owner at the spa] fired the therapist who had complained.”

Likewise, as we discussed, Ravi filed a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) lawsuit against Lori Anne Thompson and her husband.

When Ravi was confronted with his sin (and his crime), he took the opposite approach to King David. Instead of a broken and contrite spirit, Ravi demonstrated an angry, vengeful heart. Instead of apologizing to those he hurt, he punished them.

As Christians, the good news is that God forgives sinners – if they admit to their sin, ask God to forgive them, repent, and walk in obedience to Jesus. This is a message that Ravi preached to you and to me and to millions. But in crucial moments, it doesn’t seem to be what he practiced.

David repented. Sadly, Ravi retaliated.

What About The Women?

I want you to consider the women that Ravi harmed.

Think of them as if they were your sisters.

Proverbs 21:13 says, “Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.”

Do you want God to hear your prayers? Then listen to the cry of these women.

Open your heart to consider their pain. They trusted Ravi.

He twisted that trust to take advantage of them for his sexual gratification.

What would that do to your faith?

At least one of these women is your sister in Christ – Lori Anne Thompson.

If your pastor violated your sister, how would you evaluate that man?

What Comparison Did Jesus Make?

By comparing Ravi to one of the central figures in God’s redemptive history, you elevate his status far higher than it would have been if he was just a good apologist without a track record of sexual misconduct.

To be clear, this is not what Jesus did when he met the religious leaders of his day.

Jesus did not say, ‘They teach a good message, and when they secretly mistreat and abuse women, they remind me of King David.’

Instead, he said this:

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

Matthew 23:27-28

The way Jesus evaluated the religious leaders of his day is an example for how we are to evaluate the religious leaders of our day.

What Will You Do?

It is true that both King David and Ravi Zacharias are dead. They have faced accountability for their sins before a holy Judge. The Bible is clear that David knew the paths of life (e.g., Acts 2:25-28). It would be presumptuous for us to state with any certainty how God dealt with Ravi.

Nevertheless, you and I have to ask ourselves how we will conduct our lives.

Will you tell the truth about Christian leaders – or excuse their sin?

Will you stand with survivors of sexual abuse – or look the other way?

Will you use the Bible to protect the powerful – or to defend the vulnerable?

Will you go along with the crowd – or trust God and do what is right?

My prayer is that this scandal will be an opportunity for self-examination. This is a good time to humble ourselves before God, cherish the sweetness of his grace in our own hearts, and be vulnerable about our sin with trusted friends. Sadly, Ravi’s life now testifies even more loudly that sin has a terrible price.

Christians are to be a people of truth. We should tell the unvarnished truth about Ravi. Jesus did not minimize the sin of the religious leaders of his day. Let us follow his example.

Telling the truth about Ravi will intensify the grief we feel as we reckon with the reality of another tarnished example. Share your feelings about this loss with trusted friends.

I believe that as we take these steps, there is an opportunity for us to make it crystal clear that the church is a place of safety and support for survivors of sexual abuse. As we weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15), I believe that God will meet us in our sorrow. He will comfort us and give us the strength to comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).

This is a troubling and sad story. But for that, it is all the more reason for us to ask God to give us the courage we need to live together in a humble, holy, and truthful way.