I love Jesus. That’s the reason I am a Christian.
Don’t get me wrong, the apologetics arguments matter to me. They anchor and center me in ways I can’t fully articulate, but at the end of the day the love of Jesus sets the foundation of my faith. When this whole journey began, those arguments helped guide a broken and spiritually battered young man who saw no reason to care about the world and lived a life designed to kill him toward the light, but the step over the threshold happened when Jesus came into view. When I saw him, truly saw him, I ran to him.
Shortly after I devoted my life to God and began those first awkward steps in faith, I sat at a table at TGI Fridays with the young woman most responsible for breaking down the prejudices I held against Christianity and setting me on the road to the cross. I wanted to thank her and let her see the fruits of her prayers since we last talked over a year ago. She asked me during that wide-ranging conversation who my favorite literary character was. I told her, “I have had the same favorite literary character my entire life. Since the first time I saw the animated movie and after reading the book, I have loved Aslan above all others. There is no character close to him for me.”
She smiled at me, “You do realize that Aslan is Jesus, don’t you?”
I stopped for a moment and thought through the story. Before that moment, I honestly didn’t. I felt like an idiot “How could I have missed that? It is so obvious.” Through all of those angry self-destructive years while sneering at the silliness of faith and church and belief in God, which I saw as corruption built on fantasy and the need for a crutch, I loved Aslan. I had loved Jesus my whole life, though I was too broken to realize it.
I think that is why I am so drawn to others, both public figures and personal friends, when I sense that same love in them. My wife, my mentors, my closest friends, all of those relationships grew over conversations about the love of God. I heard that love in Rich Mullins’s music, music that became the soundtrack of my life. And I heard it in the voice of Ravi Zacharias the first time I heard him being interviewed on the radio talking about his book “Can Man Live without God.”
C.S. Lewis and Ravi Zacharias introduced me to a new world of thought. They both led me to G.K. Chesterton. Through Ravi, I found William Lane Craig, Paul Copan, Stuart McAllister, and Francis Beckwith. They all transformed the way I understood the world in the best sense of that idea, in the Romans 12:2 renewing of your mind way and set me on a path that continues to surprise me every day.
One key difference exists between those two great teachers. Ravi lived in my world. That is no small thing. His voice lived in my head and heart because I heard those words as he spoke them into the world through sermons and presentations. His real estate on my bookshelves grew as his contributions to our world multiplied. With Lewis, I collected his long ago completed works. With Ravi, we were blessed to be a witness to his moment, and what a moment it was. I once had the privilege of taking a pastor from India around the city of Atlanta which ended with a tour of RZIM’s office when it was still over in the Day building. The experience of seeing how much God can impact the world through an individual sufficiently sold out to his grace both humbled and shamed me. It was miraculous.
More than that, Ravi’s ministry was beautiful. Of course, it was good and true, but it was also beautiful. As the world grew coarser, he never failed to offer a loving rejoinder. As the snarky and snide prospered on-line, he lived the grace of Christ on stage as an example to us all. His smile when talking to someone who disagreed with him, his loving correction, his abiding love to share God’s truth through every imaginable articulation by which it came into the world, song lyrics, poems, movies, plays, philosophers, political science, and on and on. The internal resources he called upon in the moment seemed to know no bounds and flowed from a heart that genuinely cared about the person in front of him. He loved God and loved his neighbor. We can aspire to do that as well.
I was in the room with him several times in my life, a few times in smaller group settings. I never introduced myself. I rarely do that with my heroes. My gift to them is to leave them alone and not force an awkward moment where I try to put into words something that words cannot possibly do justice. Regardless, he gave me everything I needed from him with his work and his life. When I grow weary of the road, when the lines of people in Q&A’s attempting to justify dehumanizing others eats at my spirit, when I feel old in my bones, I can always find the comfort of my beloved Jesus in a few things. The embrace of my family, the wonders of God’s creative work in nature, the music of Rich Mullins, and the joyful voice of Ravi sharing his passionate love of Jesus. Though the man goes to God, I am grateful his voice carries on.
I know God could have guided me to this point in my life through any number of inspirations of his choosing, but I am grateful he allowed me to be a witness to Ravi. It was a beautiful way to learn.