How far is too far? Oh, it’s one of our favorite questions, isn’t it? “If only someone would just tell me how far I could get away with going sexually and be okay. Then I wouldn’t have to think about it, I could just know that, say, I can side-hug but not front hug, or kiss as long as it’s less than 10 seconds.”
Girls, may I suggest that the question you’re really asking is “How much can I get away with?” And the dilemma you’re facing goes much deeper than a physical line. The better question to ask is “How holy can I be?” But if you’ve read any kind of Christian book on dating or courtship or boundaries, you’ve probably heard that line before.
I agree 100% that the better question to ask is “How holy can I be?”. One of the best explanations I have seen of this is http://phyliciadelta.com/how-far-is-too-far/. I’m not even going to try to rewrite what she wrote, just go read it. Then come back. 🙂 Because once you have your framework right, I would like to pass on some very helpful knowledge I’ve been given that will help you in the practical decisions.
Please don’t skip the framework, though. Radiant purity in our sexual choices will only come when our hearts are right before God, and it’s both an inward and outward purity. Any kind of boundary that we set should be flowing out of our relationship with Christ and our desire to glorify Him.
An important thing to note: radiant purity does not equal virginity. You can be a virgin and not radiantly pure if you aren’t using it as a way to glorify God. And you can be radiantly pure and glorifying God, yet have a colorful past. In God’s eyes, purity does not equal our physical state, but rather the state of our hearts. I don’t mean to deny in any way that sex is intended for marriage, or that there aren’t consequences from sexual sin. BUT, God offers forgiveness and redemption, and in Christ, we are a new creation, regardless of our past.
That said, I’ve spoken to many girls who honestly don’t even know where to start setting any kind of boundaries. Or they were told things like “Save your first kiss for the altar”, but not why. We know that sex outside of marriage is wrong, but does the Bible offer us any other help? Well, actually, yes, it does, and so does science. One Biblical example is from Song of Songs:
His left hand is under my head, and his right hand embraces me. Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.Song of Songs 2:6-7
Pictured here is physical closeness within marriage, and I’d like to draw your attention to the phrase “Do not arouse or awaken love”. As I share with teens in my presentations on sexual integrity, arousal is the physical process of your body preparing for sexual intercourse. The key to abstaining from sexual intercourse is avoiding arousal.
From scientific research, arousal is typically caused by French kissing (involved/passionate kissing) in males, and not until sexual touching in females. It can happen at different points for different people, and circumstances also play into it. Nonetheless, all foreplay is meant to cause arousal and lead to sexual intercourse; therefore stopping there is challenging.
I like to think of boundaries as both physical and circumstantial. What physical boundaries do I need to make in order to avoid arousal (ie. no French kissing, keeping clothes on, etc.)? What circumstantial boundaries do I need to make in order to avoid arousal (ie. not being alone together late at night, spending most of our time in public places, etc)
The point is not to draw a hard and fast rule, but instead seek to honor the Lord, and be aware of what personally causes you or your partner to be aroused or tempted to sin. It’s not just about boundaries, but boundaries are part of it. Sex and everything leading up to it are beautiful, but only in the right context: marriage.
Some words of advice:
- Decide on personal boundaries before you’re in a situation that becomes uncomfortable or awkward, maybe even before you’re in a relationship. Learn from past relationships, too.
- When discussing boundaries with a partner, have the discussion in a way and place where you’re both comfortable and safe. There’s no need to discuss it all on your first date, but don’t wait too long either.
- Be willing to adjust boundaries. From talking to married friends, many of them found that as their relationship grew closer and headed towards marriage, it got increasingly hard to maintain physical boundaries, and they had to step back to keep from going too far.
- Be aware that your boundary isn’t necessarily someone else’s boundary. Maybe kissing for you is too much, but it’s not a problem for your friend, or vice versa. Extend understanding, not judgment.
- Keep shame out of this. Let boundaries be a way of reserving what is beautiful and lovely for marriage, not in any way because any sexual act is inherently bad or shameful.
- Rely on God. If a couple is honestly seeking the Lord’s will, desiring to honor and protect their partner, willing to give up what they want for the good of the other person, are committed to reserving physical intimacy for marriage, and are relying on the Holy Spirit instead of their own self-control, this will work itself out.
- Most importantly, pursue Jesus 100% together. Make Him the focus of your relationship. Don’t just run away from something, run to something.
Daughters of the King, keep your eyes on Jesus. Regardless of how far you’ve gone sexually, your background or your history, you can choose radiant purity starting today. Regardless of your relationship status, determine today to seek to glorify your King in all areas of your life, including your sexuality. May God bless you along the journey!