One of the smartest men in the 21st Century died last week. His name was Ravi Zacharias. Ravi was an apologist for the Christian faith but knew more about Islam, Mormonism, Buddhism, Judaism, Sikhism, and Hinduism than anyone on the planet. His recall of world history would put many professors to shame and his ability to easily recite poems from many centuries was worth watching even if you didn’t agree with his theology.
But these things weren’t the best of Ravi. Whenever he spoke to crowds around the world, he packed venues. Not because of his intellect but because of his humility. He met with presidents, foreign leaders, statesmen from the Middle East and India, students at Harvard, USC, and other prestigious universities who forbade other religious leaders from stepping foot onto their campuses. He gained an audience with them because they saw that Ravi never did what ardent religious people rarely (if ever) do: he loved the questioner more than the question. He came to ask what their needs were and gave answers they never thought of.
One year he came to the University of Michigan and was met with standing room only. A Christian apologist filled with students seeking the meaning of life. They turned to Ravi, whom they knew would care enough about them to give exhaustive, truthful, and loving answers. At a time when our political, religious, social, racial, and gender remain divided, Ravi never cared about that. He spoke at Hindu gatherings, Yale, the UN, with Muslim leaders and the poorest children and parents in Africa and many other countries. He traveled so extensively that I’m sure his family lost count of how many places he had been. Ravi debated with atheists like Richard Dawkins and found friendship with some of the keenest physics professors and scientists on the globe.
Watching Ravi speak is a lesson in how we all should speak to one another. Regardless of a listener’s beliefs, he brought people together. Not because he convinced them to follow his faith, but because he revered his listeners over himself. This is an art we rarely if ever see.