I am fascinated by the romance of ancient shipwrecks. Explorers, deep-sea divers, even underwater archaeologists use modern equipment to find the buried remains of ships centuries old. When Robert Ballard found the wreckage of the Titanic in 1985, almost seventy-five years after she sank, the images and articles fascinated all of us.
Recently I searched for “shipwreck” on the two free image websites I use. The results of my search shocked me. People captured digital images of broken or capsized ships seen from beaches around the world. Huge, ocean-going vessels lay rusting off various coasts. They’re eyesores and environmental hazards, often weighing several tons. I don’t know why, but these wrecks, weren’t removed or salvaged. Other ships now have new navigational obstacles to avoid, ones which will probably remain there for centuries.
Paul uses this imagery when writing to Timothy:
holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. (I Tim 1:19) NIV
In this portion of the chapter, Paul is talking about something truly catastrophic. These believers haven’t just injured their faith; instead they’ve destroyed it completely. In next week’s post, I’ll talk more about the meaning of this verse, but the shipwreck metaphor the apostle uses is powerful.
A wrecked ship has suffered damage so severe that it’s unable to float or keep out the seawater. If the ship runs aground and can’t be pulled free, it’s stuck there forever. Severe storms and the ocean’s waves will eventually break it apart.
For a moment, let’s look at shipwrecks metaphorically. Imagine the seawater symbolizes the American culture which surrounds each of us. Each ‘ship’ represents an individual Christian’s life with Jesus. We are in the seawater, yet separated from it by the ship’s hull. In fact, we often struggle against our society’s ‘tides and currents.’ At present, our culture exalts sexual freedom and encourages people to chase after fame or wealth.
My boat needs to be ‘water-tight’ in order to keep floating. Each time I sin, my ship springs a leak. A little bit of wayward, rebellious cultural ‘seawater’ seeps in. If I repent, and pray for divine help, my ‘leak’ seals up. But if I don’t deal with my sin, the leak in my hull gets bigger. Making excuses or blaming other people for my bad behavior causes the leaks in my ship to grow much more serious. Soon I’ll need to ‘start bailing water’.
Patch the leaks. Bail out the excess water. Keep your vessel ‘ship-shape.’ One of the reasons our Captain calls us to chart such a different course is because He wants to keep us safe and whole.
Like Jesus, we are called to live in our culture and yet stay separate. People are in real distress because they dive into the prevailing cultural current and it sweeps them out to sea. Eventually, a sinful lifestyle always has bad consequences. Some choose to drown rather then ask for help. Others are crying out to be rescued.
And the rescuers–that’s us–all need to be in sea worthy ships. We can’t rescue anyone if we’re drowning too.
All images are from Pixabay.com.