I have been meaning to write my #ThankYouRavi message for about 2 weeks now since learning of his dire prognosis, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. At the same time, I was struggling to remember how I came to know Ravi. It literally came back to me on the morning of the day that his passing was announced.
So, I came to know about Ravi in 2011, in a class where we were going through the book of Romans at Charis Bible College in Saint Petersburg. The instructor was talking about the arguments made by Paul in the book of Romans and he mentioned Apologetics as being the reasoned defence of the Gospel.
As he was talking about apologetics, he mentioned Ravi’s name as being one of the leading apologists. I was interested but I didn’t get Ravi’s name well so in my book I scribbled Roby Zachari or something like that. I googled the name immediately I got home and was somehow directed to Ravi’s actual name. That is how I got introduced to Ravi’s teaching and the entire RZIM ministry.
I was really amazed by his teaching because he responded to the tough questions of life. The way he related the word of God to daily living was second to none. It was like finding something that I really needed but did not know that I was looking for.
His wit, articulate use of words and poetry made it easier to penetrate even the toughest of crowds.
I later got his book ‘Jesus among other gods’, which was my key into the intellectual world of faith and reason, the foundational block for my apologetics.
Ravi taught me that my questions are valid, and that God responds to them, which was new to me since I came from a church culture that did not condone questioning. He taught me how to worship God with my mind, using God given logic, and use culture, history, reason, philosophy to respond to the questions of our day.
His answers were tough but his touch very gentle. I guess it is the reason he could relate with rulers of nations and taxi drivers alike. He gracefully walked the delicate line between love and truth, always looking out for the questioner behind the question. He always insisted on the gentleness and respect in giving the reason for our faith (1 Peter 3:15). This is a lesson I take everywhere with me, always reminding myself that winning an argument means nothing if the person is lost.
That lesson changed my perspective of the Russian society in which I lived at the time. I began to see Russians beyond the stereotypes and labels thrown at them. This made it easier for me to reach out to them. If you have read any of my Russian stories, you may have noticed that I try to seek them out, going beyond the typical ‘popular’ opinions about them. That, I got from Ravi.
My friends would tell you that I made them know Ravi in those days, wanting them to be blessed as I was. His teaching was too good to keep to yourself.
I was sure to meet him in 2012 at Oxford during RZIM’s summer school but the British government decided that I wasn’t good enough for their Visa. That meeting will have to happen on the other side of glory.
The truth is that without Ravi, there wouldn’t be much writing on apologetics in this blog and in my daily interactions with people in and outside church. He called out the apologist in me.
Ravi’s work will bring many to Christ even after his death because he was a faithful messenger of the word that will never pass away.
The family has lost their patriarch, the church has lost an evangelist and defender of the faith, the world has lost an intellectual giant and I have lost a personal hero.