Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. – 1 Timothy 1:18-19, NIV
Much of the confusion surrounding infidelity is how strange it feels. One does not expect a spouse to commit adultery. And it is especially strange if this behavior surfaces after apparent years of fidelity.
Who is this person?
She certainly was not the person I remember to whom I vowed lifelong exclusive fidelity. That person cared about me. I was convinced. She was incapable of such a dastardly betrayal.
Yet here I am.
She has shipwrecked her life.
And has left a debris field of destruction in her wake.
I look at today’s passage from the Apostle Paul and am struck by a few things. First, Paul is writing about people who started in the faith sincerely. They are like an adulterous spouse who was honest on their wedding day.
He intended to keep his vows. And he may have kept them for years. Like that husband, these individuals seemed to have started out well in their faith.
But they ended up shipwrecking it.
They let go of their “faith and a good conscience.” This is what Paul identifies as what caused their ultimate demise. It did not end well for them spiritually.
Such begs a question:
How does holding fast to “faith and a good conscience” protect us from shipwrecking our lives?
1. Holding to Faith:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen….But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. – Hebrews 11:1, 6, KJV
A crisis of faith is a life crisis. As the writer of Hebrews points out, faith is believing and trusting in the unseen. And this faith is necessary to please God as it is by faith we relate to God.
If we lose this faith, we are unmoored. Our lives no longer are ordered by the reality of God. We no longer are capable of seeing His goodness, omnipotence, omniscience, justice, and righteousness. We start to think we are in charge and act accordingly.
Let’s apply this to marital infidelity:
The loss of this faith for spouses can mean the marriage is doomed. God’s commands matter not as one does not believe in God. So, it really just boils down to what one wants. And it comes back to thinking one can get away with things–if crafty enough–as God does not exist for this person. He cares not about God. No healthy fear remains.
This is not a recipe for a righteous life. Nor is it a recipe for righteous marriage.
A shipwreck is around the corner to those who lose faith.
2. Holding to a Good Conscience:
God has given us an inner voice to warn us regarding wrong. This is the other mooring line for our lives.
A person without integrity is a person who has violated his conscience.
In other words, he or she has “let go” of a good conscience. This leads to moral drifting. The anchor line has been cut. No more fighting against the waves of life’s concerns and trials. A person is now free to ride the waves of life’s passions and desires wherever they lead.
And they lead to destruction.
As Paul puts it, it leads to a shipwrecked faith.
So, with neither a grounding belief–i.e. faith–in God or a good conscience tethering a person’s life to a healthy morality/ethic, the person floats freely unbound in any way to such “stodgy” principles like marital fidelity. Such an unanchored “boat” is bound to eventually find its ways against the ragged rocks called “Infidelity.” Nothing is left to stop it.
Don’t be that boat.
Listen to Paul’s warning to Timothy.
Hold fast to your faith. And do not violate your conscience.
Both are true gifts from God given to us so that we do not destroy ourselves spiritually shipwrecking our lives and leaving a debris field in our wake.