Christian evangelist and apologist Ravi Zacharias died on May 19, at age 74 after a brief battle with cancer. Ravi Zacharias spent the past 48 years traveling the world to commend the Christian faith and address life's greatest existential questions of origin, meaning, morality and destiny with eloquence and grace for a variety of audiences.
Through his founding and leadership of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM), Zacharias launched a global team of nearly 100 Christian scholars and authors who continue to speak, resource, train and address the questions of millions around the world.
One of Zacharias's strengths as a speaker and author is his ability to tell a story well. As a tribute to Zacharias, here are three of our favorite stories from the evangelist.
1. Orphan Grasps the Dignity of His New Name
I have two very special friends whose lives have been a blessing to countless children who have been deformed from birth. They have established an orphanage to give them a home and find medical help to correct what can be corrected. Then they look for families who will adopt them. One little boy had always been passed over for adoption because he has a particular brain malfunction that is very rare. He often doesn't connect thoughts. At about nine years of age, as I remember the story, he was becoming despondent as, one-by-one, he saw his housemates being selected by families and leaving. He began to ask those who were taking care of him why no one was adopting him. Why didn't anybody choose him?
Through an incredible series of events, a couple from Texas, who had already adopted one child from the same orphanage, called to ask if this boy was still there. Through the goodness of the parents' hearts, and the generosity of the couple who established the orphanage in agreeing to cover all the costs of his adoption, the day has been set for this little boy to be taken to his new home. The special part of the thrill for him is that he will be reunited with one of the little boys who was his housemate at one time.
His actual name is quite hard to pronounce, but it is quite a normal name in his native setting. His adoptive parents have sent him the name they want to give him-Anson Josiah, the initials of which are A.J. He now walks around that home, waiting for his new parents to come for him, telling everybody as he points to his chest, "You can call me A.J. My name is A.J." Is it not interesting that even with the debilitation of disconnected thoughts, he is able to pick up the redeeming thrill of relationship and [his profound worth as] evidenced in his new name?
Ravi Zacharias, Why Jesus? (FaithWords, 2012), pp. 166-167
2. Father and Son Work Together to Weave Beautiful Indian Saris
In his book Jesus Among Other Gods, Ravi Zacharias tells the story about how God, the Master Weaver, sovereignly works to weave beauty into our lives as we respond to his will. During a trip to India, Zacharias noticed a father and son who were weaving some of the most beautiful Indian wedding saris in the world. Zacharias explains the background and then describes the scene:
The sari, of course, is the garment worn by Indian women. It is usually six yards long. Wedding saris are a work of art; they are rich in gold and silver threads, resplendent with an array of colors.
The place I was visiting was known for making the best wedding saris in the world. I expected to see some elaborate system of machines and designs that would boggle the mind. Not so! Each sari was being made individually by a father-and-son team. The father sat above on a platform two- to three-feet higher than the son, surrounded by several spools of thread, some dark, some shining.
The son did just one thing. At a nod, from his father, he would move the shuttle from one side to the other and back again. The father would gather some threads in his fingers, nod once more, and the son would move the shuttle again. This would be repeated for hundreds of hours, till you would begin to see a magnificent pattern emerging.
The son had the easy task-just to move at the father's nod. All along, the father had the design in mind and brought the threads together.
The more I reflect on my own life and study the lives of others, I am fascinated to see the design God has for each one of us ... if we would only respond to him.
Ravi Zacharias, Jesus Among Other Gods (Zondervan, 2000), pp. 17-18
3. Ravi Zacharias Speaks to a Leader of Hamas
Do you know why the Middle East is in the cauldron of hate? Because it's living with the logic of unforgiveness. I was talking to one of the founders of Hamas, Sheikh Talal. I was part of a group of people who had gone to the Middle East to try and bring the people together to a peace table. Sheikh Talal gave us a great meal, told us of eighteen years he'd served in prison, and how some of his children had been lost in suicide bombings. When my turn came to ask a question, I said, "Sheik, forgive me if I'm asking you the wrong question. Please tell me, what do you think of suicide bombing and sending your children out like that?"
After he finished his answer, I said, "Sheik, you and I may never see each other again, so I want you to hear me. A little distance from here is a mountain upon which Abraham went 5,000 years ago to offer his son. And as the axe was about to fall, God said, 'Stop.'" I said, "Do you know what God said after that?" He shook his head. I said, "God said, 'I myself will provide.'" He nodded his head. I said, "Very close to where you and I are sitting, Sheik, is a hill. Two thousand years ago, God kept that promise and brought his own Son and the axe did not stop this time. He sacrificed his own Son."
He just stared at me. The room was full of smoke with all of his security people. I said, "I may never see you again, Sheikh, but I want to leave this with you: Until you and I receive the Son that God has provided, we will be offering our own sons and daughters on the battlefields of this world for land and power and pride."
I could just see the man's lips beginning to quiver; he was sitting right next to me. Nobody said anything after that .... As we were walking out ... Sheikh Talal went quickly and shook hands with everyone, and then he came over to me and grabbed me by the shoulders, kissed me on both sides of the face, patted my face, and he said, "You're a good man, I hope I see you again someday."
When you understand [Christ's grace], it is an unparalleled message. In Hinduism, you pay with karma. In Islam you never know if your good deeds will outweigh your bad deeds. But the grace of Christ comes to you and says, "If any man comes unto me I will in no wise cast him out."
Adapted from Ravi Zacharias, "Ravi Zacharias Speaks with the Founder of Hamas," Justin Taylor Between Two Worlds blog (12-3-12)