Recently, the world lost an intellectual, Dr Ravi Zacharias. He’s someone that can be referred to as an authority in the field of Christian apologetics.
No matter the world view you share or the side of the divide you belong, you cannot help but admire and revere a lot of things about him.
From the most militant fanatic to the most sombre religious, from the most aggressive sceptic to the most vocal critic, Dr Ravi Zacharias had a word for everyone and his approach met the appeal of many scholars and academics who wouldn’t ordinarily listen to him on account of differences in faith and philosophical leaning.
No matter our differences and unique perspectives, our shared humanity makes us equal adherents of the need to get better.
As a human being who we can all learn from, I wish to highlight certain aspects of his character from which we all could pick one or two traits.
He read a lot
This may sound too simple but Ravi Zacharias was a man of the books. As a philosopher and speaker this was inescapable but it’s also important for us to understand that for you to reach out and preach any message so to speak, you must understand and be able to share your knowledge with others. People do not know you until they hear from you and see you. All his debates reflect the length, breadth and depth he went in pursuit of knowledge. Won’t you do the same?
He was courteous.
Knowledge can puff one up. It’s not easy when intellectuals from Oxford and Harvard are some of the many counterparts you debate with. Nevertheless, I got to see a man who still reflected the respect he has for his fellow debaters when he faces even the most discourteous of questioners. He recognizes that mode of approach will be difficult to resist even by blatant reproach.
His humanity showed on and on.
He has spoken extensively about how a rod was placed in his spine and how much pain he has to endure as he takes on his travels. Yet, his schedule was never relieved until his diagnosis with sacral cancer. There’s nothing appealing, as he was one who didn’t present himself as a superhuman or intellectual supernova. He helped you understand that your concerns and worries weren’t alien to him. You’re equally able to relate naturally to his stories. We need such fellows in our various organizations and bodies. While our humanity is a shared one, the reality is not generally acknowledged.
He always showed empathy.
When it comes to empathy, it is something that human beings ought to practice. There’s usually a tendency to be judgmental and insensitive even when the situation is dire. Many times, people asked certain questions out of spite or just to put words in his mouth, he usually recognized this and came down to the level of the individual making such moves. Many times, people askd questions which we may immediately interpret as offensive or disgusting. The truth is that many of these people seek clarity from the position they are and not the position you expect them to be. Taking this under consideration, requires one who is empathetic not necessarily sympathetic. Pity doesn’t solve problems, solutions do. When these solutions originate from a place of empathy, the recipient or beneficiary will ultimately experience a shift in mindset beyond getting solution to any stated problem.
He recognized the right of others to have a standpoint.
When it comes to world debates, you will meet diversities of belief, system and orientation. There’s no way you are going to make progress when you present as ‘the one who takes no criticisms or counter opinions.’ His simple approach when on a stage was to share his knowledge via a lecture or debate, take questions and minister as needed, and he did these amazingly well. No wonder he kept getting invited a lot by secular institutions and organizations. People recognize and respect you when you are an authority, and not someone who present themselves as lords that must be obeyed.
His reputation was not far from his character.
In many ways, many renowned men and women of thought, possess characters that contrast so disappointingly to the images they present for the videos and photos. Why this happens is subject to analysis and debate but for Dr Ravi Zacharias, this wasn’t his style. People around him have testified to this fact. Perhaps we are likely to downplay such testimonies as biased and resultant effects of the hysteria that is caught by friends, family and admirers when a person dies. However, character is difficult to hide. The hush tones of displeasure would have been heard here and there even before his death.
All the same, he was a human and like every one of us, had his shortcomings. However, there lived a man, with a message, and who left behind a legacy.
While we celebrate the man and his message, let us remember the life he lived and the lessons that guided his legacies. It’s an open book to everyone that can read.