This is our third 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!
Question: 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?
Great question! And let me start this off by saying you are NOT alone. This is probably one of the most common questions asked in the world of dating and sexuality when trying to do things God’s way. I’m guessing you were here for Pastor Tyler and Crystal’s message last Sunday! If you’re reading this and you weren’t, be sure to check it out here on YouTube.
Now let’s get to it. This is a fairly dense pack of questions so for clarity’s sake (and to make sure this post is not 8 pages long), I’m going to break this up into two weeks:
Week 1) Dating God’s Way
Week 2) Boundaries and All His Friends
-This is also a shameless plug to get you to come back to this blog next week!-
Dating God’s Way
Oh, dating. The great mystery. There is a total of zero verses about dating in the Bible; no how-tos or how-to-nots, and definitely no mention of “how far is too far” specifics. What are we to do, then? Well, lucky for us, sometimes there are gray areas in the Bible (like how to date) where we get an opportunity to actually develop our relationship with God in order to understand his heart behind the issue. How does God call us to date, and how does he feel about our sexual interaction within the dating sphere? Let’s investigate.
First things first – we’ll start with the facts. Here are some things we know about the Christian life, according to the Bible, that could apply to dating:
• 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)
So, let’s take all of that and apply it to dating. I think a couple of the big things we have to consider before getting in an intimate relationship with someone is: what is our aim, and what are we craving? Once we compare those answers with what we know about the Christian life, as stated above, we’ll have pretty much all we need.
I noticed that you said you’re potentially having this conversation with a non-Christian partner. And that’s OK! There is nothing that says it’s illegal (lol) or immoral to date someone that doesn’t share your same views about Jesus. However, this is something to seriously consider before the relationship progresses further. What is the aim? Is it to get married? Are you just dating to get to know them better? Where do you see this leading? If the goal of your dating relationship is to potentially marry, I’d say let’s take a pause real quick. The Bible says that when we get married, we are made one. This is both spiritual (in the eyes of God you have come together in a covenant before him) and physical (you are physically made one when you have sex).
If there are different “Gods” in your life – you value God as your ultimate priority and have no other idols before him, and he or she values something else as their ultimate priority or idol – the relationship will always experience friction and a shaky foundation. It is impossible to come together as one when there is a fundamental incongruency present. Additionally, your relationship with God will influence every sphere of your life, from your day-to-day choices to your overall purpose for being (as it should!). That is a big factor to take into consideration when choosing someone to potentially marry and share your life with forever! Take this as a word of caution if it applies to you, and if it doesn’t, maybe just keep it in mind for the future.
Second, let’s ask ourselves what we are craving. Are we finding our supreme delight and treasure in God, first and foremost? Is our ultimate goal to glorify him through our relationship? Are we enjoying our intimacy together as a byproduct of who God is and the gifts he want to give us? What are we really after?
If it’s the things we just mentioned – glorifying God and enjoying more of Jesus – then that’s a good sign. We can move forward with confidence! We can establish boundaries and know that they are our helpers, not hinderances, in this relationship. But if our goal is to actually just experience affection and intimacy – not bad things to want, by the way!! – then we need to re-evaluate. If we are longing to be loved, no amount of boundaries or conversations with our partner will be able to help. The devil loves to get his foot in the door, and when we give him an inch – like entering into a relationship when we are not getting our total fulfillment from Jesus first – he will take a mile. Take some time and examine what it is that you are actually after. God is always faithful to heal our broken parts, and he longs to lavish affection and intimacy beyond our wildest dreams on us. Experience this first. Build this foundation first. Seek him, and everything else will be added later.
Now that we’ve got a good basis for entering relationships, let’s take it up a notch. It’s not just about what God has to say about dating; what does God have to say about sex while dating? How are we supposed to handle that?
In your question you mentioned “maybe wanting to wait” when referencing the talk about having sex before marriage – that’s a good place to start! The first thing you’ll need to do if dating someone (anyone, really – this doesn’t just apply to non-Christian partners) is decide what you want. Do you want to wait to have sex until after marriage? Do you not? I can’t say much for 100% certain, but one thing I can is that if your mind is not made up about this subject, you will end up having sex. The enemy likes to prey on us when we’re weak and vulnerable, and there are few situations in which we are weaker or more vulnerable than late at night with a person we are extremely attracted to alone with us in a private space.
Now if you do decide that waiting to have sex until you’re married is something you want, rejoice! This is a decision you will not regret. That’s not to say that someone who has sex before marriage will definitely regret it, but God’s design for us as laid out in the Bible is that sex is intended for one man and one woman under the covenant (or promise, agreement, vow) of marriage. Anything else falls short of his glorious standard for our lives. While this may seem oppressive or limited or designed to make you suffer in agony as you deny your natural instincts, it is actually not!
Let me encourage you for a minute. Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” The meaning behind this is twofold. Through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross – when he died for our sins and took our punishment – he once and for all set us free. Free from both the law and the weight of sin. We no longer have to make crazy sacrifices and obey 500 different religious laws to be right with God. Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice! But, at the same time, when we mess up and fall short of his standard, we no longer have to be crushed under the weight of our mistakes. He has already paid off that debt! Through faith in Jesus, we are made right with God.
All this to say – Christ died to make us truly free. Free to make our own choices, dating or otherwise, but also empowered by his grace (the unmerited favor he gives us) to make the best choices. Sometimes true freedom doesn’t look like we think it would. It’s not doing whatever we want, dating whoever we want, eating whatever we want, watching whatever we want, just because we can. All the time, though, it looks like trusting that God loves us and wants what is best for us. It’s the ultimate paradox – we experience the greatest freedom within his boundaries. Speaking of boundaries…stay tuned for next week’s installment!
Ever so sincerely and wishing you all the best on the roller coaster that is modern dating,