This is our fourth post in a series of advice column-style blogs entitled “Asking for a Friend.” For more information on the series and to submit your own questions, click here!
Hi! Looking for advice on having conversations with non-Christian dating partners about the whole sex before marriage thing and maybe wanting to wait? And also even about convos re: appropriate boundaries in that case. Like if kissing is still ok? Or touching? Like what’s ok and what’s not and how do you talk about it?
Good to see you again! Last week we covered Part 1 of “What Even is Dating?” by discussing how we can go about dating God’s way. If you missed that post, definitely have a look here. This week, as promised, we will be talking about boundaries and why they’re actually our best friend in the dating world.
To start things off, I want to revisit the list of things that we KNOW God has said about our sexuality. We mentioned last week that there is no “how to” manual in the Bible for dating. No dos and don’ts, nor any “how far is too far?” answers. So instead, it’s up to us to rely on intimacy with God and understanding his heart in order to understand how he feels about these things. Like I said, if you missed last week’s post, that’s definitely a good pre-cursor to read before continuing with this one.
Here are some truths we know about the Christian life, according to the Bible, that could apply to dating (and boundaries):
• God calls us to be in relationship with each other (Genesis 2:18, John 15:13)
• He also says that sex is good – great – if you’re married! (1 Timothy 4:5, Proverbs 5:18-19, all of Song of Songs)
• He also says to flee from sexual immorality if you’re not married, because it can cause a lot of harm (1 Corinthians 6:18)
• Purity is about more than your actions – it’s about your heart (Matthew 5:28, Proverbs 4:23)
• It’s good to be married to people who have the same foundational values as us, especially when it comes to our faith in Jesus (2 Corinthians 16:14)
• God says to have no other God before him – meaning no idols, and nothing we prefer or value more than him (Exodus 20:3, Matthew 10:37)
• He also says that in him is all the joy and pleasure we could ever need (Psalm 16:11)
Now, let’s get down to business. As far as boundaries are concerned, we really could use all the above points to make some sort of connection as to what’s good and what’s not-so-good. For clarity’s sake, though, we’ll focus mostly on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th points today. First thing being: sex is great! The Bible has countless truths that explain how sex is meant to be enjoyed and is a part of God’s plan for the Christian life. God put sex is our lives not just for procreation, but to be relished and to build intimacy between a husband and wife.
Speaking of husbands and wives, there’s the second point: sex is for marriage. As referenced above, it says in Corinthians to flee from sexual immorality, because there is no other sin that so clearly affects the body. The reason for this is because the act of sex is meant to be the ultimate picture of union, of covenant, between two people. When we try to separate sex from the emotional, spiritual, and “covenantal union,” as Pastor John Piper says, it wreaks havoc on everyone involved. Marriage, the most tangible reflection of God’s love for us and Jesus’ love for his people, is where God meant for that ultimate commitment and intimacy to happen.
That brings me to my next point – sex isn’t just about sex. Boundaries aren’t just physical, either. Matthew 5:28 says that anyone who looks at someone else with lust in their heart has already committed adultery. This shows us that God isn’t just obsessed with what we do with our bodies and wants to make sure we do everything but have sex before our wedding nights. He cares about our hearts! He wants to make sure we’re not just robots, going through the motions and willing our bodies to not have sex or enjoy physical pleasure until the time is right. He wants our entire being, mind and all, surrendered to HIS best for our life. Trusting that when he says sex is best for marriage, he meant ALL of sex—even the mental stuff—is best for marriage. Which, if we use our powers of inference and context clues, can easily tell us what he thinks about the physical “not technically sex” stuff too.
Proverbs 4:23 tells us, in the plainest way possible, to guard our hearts above all else. Let’s bring this into the conversation now. With what we know about sex (it’s good, and it’s meant for marriage) and what we know about God (he cares about our hearts) let’s start forming some practical take-aways.
In your question you asked about appropriate boundaries, like kissing or touching. What’s ok? Well, my best advice, which we could pretty much land this whole post on, is to just not put yourself in a situation where not having sex will be extremely tough. Just don’t do it. Avoid it altogether. Why start making out alone late at night on your bed when you’ve already decided that you don’t want to have sex? And do you really need to get naked though??? Physically, mentally, and emotionally, once you put yourself on this train we all know how hard it is to get off of it. These actions – physical and mental – are meant to literally prepare us to have sex. So why engage with them if that is not our ultimate goal yet? The Bible tells us not to awaken those desires until the time is right. And if you’ve decided that sex is for marriage and you’re not married yet, we can just agree that the time is not right.
On the contrary, you may be fine kissing and doing whatever and then stopping yourself. You may be a literal super human and be able to withstand extreme physical desires, and in that case, bravo, seriously. But is your partner ok with that too? This is where the conversations come in. You need to decide for yourselves what your boundaries are – areas you just need to stay away from – in order to best trust God and love him more. Then talk about it! Be totally honest with your partner and tell them, “Hey, this is important to me and an area that I don’t want to even tempt myself with. I need both of us to be on the same page and to help each other by not putting ourselves in situations where these boundaries will be impossible to stand by.” And encourage them to do the same with you! Value each other enough to see the other person as a prize; see them and their sexuality as something to guard and protect, not something to exploit. You can tell so much about their beliefs by how they react to this – if they can’t understand or respect it, the relationship just ain’t for you. But if they DO understand, and you both agree to treat each other according to a higher standard, it will bring your connection to a whole new level.
Matthew 5:8 says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” At the end of the day, isn’t this all we want? We want to see God – in all areas of our life. In ourselves, in our relationships, in our marriages, in our friendships. This is why we have these conversations; why we talk about boundaries and sex-before-marriage and try to figure out all the dos and don’ts. It’s really just seeing God more and more clearly that we’re after. So, all that being said, don’t beat yourself up. We all make mistakes, no one is perfect, and even if you agree with every word I’ve said here, you will definitely fail at least once on the road to relationship-ville. Luckily we serve a loving and gracious God who uses our failures to bring us closer to him, revealing more of his goodness along the way.
All the best,