You have heard the statement, “Oh, what tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” According to a New York Times article, June 7, 1996, “What a tangled web we weave; we all practice to deceive.” The article continues by stating that, “…90% confess that they regularly don’t tell the truth. 20% admit they can’t get through a day without conscious, premeditated white lies.”
It suggests that American society has moved from the age when “a man’s word was his bond” to one in which “…people are more accepting than ever before of exaggerations, falsifications, fabrications, misstatements, misrepresentations, gloss-overs, quibbles, concoctions, equivocations, shuffles, prevarications, trims and truth colored and varnished.” (Quoted in Laura Schlessinger and Stewart Vogel’s book, The Ten Commandments: The Significance of God’s Law in Everyday Life)
- Behaviors usually reflect what words express.
- Both behaviors and words are demonstrations of one’s values and what is important to an individual.
- So, friendships, fidelity in marriages, and cohesion in families, honorable business relationships, honor in communities and governments all suffer in a society in which one’s word and one’s behavior do not arise from a sense of fidelity, trustworthiness, and loyalty.
As the Psalmist states, “Help, Lord, for the faithful are no more; the faithful have vanished from among men. Everyone lies to his neighbor; their flattering lips speak with deception” (Psalm 12:1-2).
WHAT IS “FIDELITY”?
“Fidelity” is what the Pharisees in Jesus’ day lacked (Matthew 23:23), what the Holy Spirit develops in Christians as “fruit” (Galatians 5:22), and what mature Christians become (Titus 2:10-14).
Taking all the concepts involved from Webster’s Dictionary and the thesaurus Family Word Finder, we have a working definition of “fidelity”: “devotion, loyalty, faithfulness, adherence, constancy, true-heartedness, trustworthiness, integrity, honesty, truthfulness, probity, honor, allegiance, sincerity, good faith, earnestness.”
In the New Testament the word pistis or pistos is used most often to express “faith”, “trustworthiness,” “reliable”, “faithful.” As Thayer says concerning pistos: “Fidelity, the character of one who can be trusted, relied on.”
Honor doesn’t exist where one’s character is not reliable or faithful with integrity. Promises and oaths are worthless if their words are less than reliable.
Contracts, secret confidences, entrusted duties, and obedience to the rule of law in society fail if the individuals involved are not “faithful,” “trustworthy.”
Marriages and family relations, dealings with neighbors, working with employers, and signing documents of importance suffer defeat without “fidelity.”
To make the case for “fidelity,” the Word of God emphasizes a foundation put down by God and the things of God which are “faithful”: God Himself (I Cor. 1:9); Jesus Christ, the Son (Revelation 1:5;3:14); the words of the Scripture (I Tim. 2:11); servants of God (II Tim. 2:2); one who would be saved (Heb. 11:5; John 8:24).
These are but a few of the many scriptures in the New Testament, not even considering the Old Testament, to show that in God’s world, FIDELITY COUNTS!
- Can you imagine if you could not depend on God keeping His promises to you?
- Or if Jesus was not faithful to the will of the Father in dying on the cross?
- Or the Holy Spirit not revealing the truth of God in the Word as instructed to do?
- Or the chosen apostles not being true to the Word of God revealed to them in their teaching, preaching, and writing it for us?
- Or early Christians not living as faithful examples for us to follow as they followed Jesus?
Where would we be without the faithful God who provides constancy and reliability: (James 1:17) “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
We must live in God’s world of trustworthiness and faithfulness in order to please Him. It is also the best way to live because it avoids “tangled webs” of deceit and provides for wholesome relationships with God and others.
- Throughout the Bible the point is made that our relationships of faithfulness toward others is directly dependent on our faithfulness to our Creator (Romans 1:16-ff; Deuteronomy 6:1ff; Matthew 22:34-40).
- Our business relationships are to be faithful based our faithfulness to God (Ephesians 4:28f).
- Our domestic relationships are to be faithful based directly on our faithfulness to God (Ephesians 5-6; Colossians 3:1-4:6).
Let’s get to work on the fidelity of marriage relations with these thoughts in mind, for it is in this area that our culture seeks to defeat us through Satan’s influences. But fidelity counts with God!
Fidelity Counts in Marriage!
“Will you have this woman to your wedded wife, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of matrimony? Will you love her, comfort her, honor, and keep her in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep yourself only unto her, so long as you both shall live?”
“Will you have this man to your wedded husband, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of matrimony? Will you love him, comfort him, honor, and keep him in sickness, and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep yourself only to him, so long as you both shall live?”
“Will you join your right hands as a pledge of your fidelity to each other?”
Sound familiar? “Just words” or “vows” before God with the seriousness of fidelity enjoined on each party in marriage? When God made the union of man and woman he designed the relationship as a “cleaving” unto each other (Genesis 2:24-25). They were “joined” and no man was to “sever” their bond (Matthew 19:4-6). They were joined as long as they lived (Romans 7:1-3).
Infidelity pollutes what is a sacred joining and breaks a covenant God recognizes as binding.
This is the kind of material not often portrayed in the entertainment media. Michael Medved, highly regarded media critic, in his book Hollywood vs. America, writes:
“Another key element in the entertainment industry’s attack on the family involves its relentlessly negative portrayal of marital relationships. In Hollywood’s view of the world, marriage is an institution that is outmoded, oppressive, and frequently dangerous” (page 122).
The glamorization of adultery and infidelity in marriage has made what God considers “honorable” (Hebrews 13:1-4) into a staid and boring matter.
An article by Katie Roiphe in New York Times Magazine, October 12, 1997, referenced in The Ten Commandments: The Significance of God’s Law in Everyday Life, stated,”…we’ve grown much more tolerant of adultery, at least when it comes to women. Women’s magazines practically recommend it to their readers as a fun and healthy activity, like buying a new lipstick, or vacationing in the Caribbean. In Elle we read that ‘an affair can be a sexual recharging, an escape from a worn-out relationship, a way into something better.’
Harper’s Bazaar breathlessly tells us about women whose ‘marriages are improved by their affairs. Because they get their fill of rapture elsewhere, these wives are not apt to complain or nag or find fault with their husband.’ If a woman has an adulterous affair, she is, according to Harper’s Bazaar, ‘asserting her femininity.”
In addition to the culture’s glamorizing adultery, it has also made lying about it no big deal. Think back on our country’s recent heartache when a President was impeached. Some said, “Adultery is a private matter. . . He only lied about it to protect himself as all men do when they have affairs…It’s nobody’s business but his and hers…It isn’t adultery or sexual sinning if complete intercourse is not engaged in…It isn’t perjury to lie about a personal affair under oath…It’s only about sex.”
Lying comes out of the same attitude of infidelity that adultery does.
When God instructed Israel about their spiritual and ethical conduct, He said, “You shall not commit adultery…” and also, “You shall not bear false witness…” and also, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife…” (Exodus 20:1-17). Their fidelity to Him (vv. 1-3) would be the springboard for fidelity to neighbor.
When a marital partner commits adultery, sexual infidelity, and lies about it, one sin has been committed—infidelity toward God (Romans 1:17-ff)—with two sins against neighbor, adultery and lying. To “have sex” with someone outside of marriage, whether married or not, is sinful. All the parsing of words do not matter.
When one reads Genesis 1:18; 2:18-25; Hebrews 13:4; Ephesians 5:22-33; I Corinthians 7:1ff one cannot help but be impressed with the fact that the following needs are supplied in marriage:
2. Mutual fulfillment of needs
3. Love expressed in a trusting, committed relation
4. Fulfillment of sexual needs in the way God approved
5. Forming a basis for family and society to live orderly before God
VULNERABILITY TO INFIDELITY
The Bible says that when Satan tempts us to sin, he does so using our own lusts, or desires (James 1).
We become vulnerable when our desire exceeds that which is lawful before God to do and, just as Cain in his rage of jealousy, “sin lies at the door”(Genesis 4:7).