As Christians, we are taught and encouraged to strive for sexual purity before marriage, but what does that mean? Does that just mean abstaining from the act of sexual intercourse, or is there more to it than that? From flirting and holding hands to cuddling and “making out”…
How far is too far?
Let’s take a look at a different side of the Song of Solomon. In the midst of the intimate words and vows exchanged between the lovers, the bride gives a warning to her unmarried hand-maidens (aka “The Bridesmaids”). Three different times she warns her bridesmaids that they must “…not awaken/stir up love before it’s time!” The first warning is at the beginning of the book when she is talking about her beloved’s love for her and her love for him (2:7). The next time she gives the warning is when she is waiting to consummate the marriage (3:5). The third and final warning comes at the end of the book, when the bride and groom have taken their vows and enjoyed their wedding night (8:4). You don’t have to be a biblical scholar to know that anything worthy of repeating is important. This warning is scattered throughout the whole book! The bride knew the power of love, both before and after her marriage. She had battled her sexual desire before marriage (5:2-8) and now she had fully experienced its consuming power (8:5b-7). The bride is telling her girl friends not to awaken love before it’s time because love is intoxicating! Romantic, physical love is enthralling. And once that physical relationship is awakened it is intensely difficult to keep under control…because it wasn’t meant to be! Our bodies were made to go “all the way”…but in the confines of marriage. How many times have you heard (or maybe you yourself have said), “I’m only going to go this far. Kissing or cuddling or (you fill in the blank) is fine, because it doesn’t tempt me.”
So, how far is too far when it comes to sexual purity? The bride of the Song of Solomon warns against opening the “Pandora’s box” of sexual intimacy before the appropriate time. But is this purity only to be sought after in our physical relationships? Certainly that is what we are called to guard and protect; but as we discovered in “The Power of Love,” sex is more than just a physical act, but one that links two individuals together – so much so that the Bible says that they are now “one” (Matthew 19:5, 1 Corinthians 6:16). The level of emotional ties that are formed during sexual intimacy are strong and binding.
Purity is not merely a state of the body, but of the heart, mind and spirit. For instance, I might think I have the freedom to daydream about my future husband or wedding, but dwelling on things that the Lord has not yet seen fit to give can breed a bitter and discontent heart. It also keeps me from guarding my heart from emotional attachment before the right time. As we’re told in Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” That is our goal, ladies. Though difficult to do, our longings for marriage or an intimate relationship are better left at the feet of our caring, Heavenly Father. Before you think I am saying all this out of a self-righteous spirit, please know I say this speaking from my own experience.
Here’s what I’ve learned in keeping myself from going “too far”:
First, if it is in your power, do not put yourself in a tempting situation but instead, run away (1 Cor. 6:18). You can do this practically by setting up boundaries for yourself before you even encounter a temptation. Be honest with yourself in setting up boundaries. Should you and your boyfriend be alone at his apartment watching a movie? Do you really need to be spending every free night having a “chick-flick” movie marathon? Remember, many things may be ok for us to do, but not all things bring us closer to the Lord and protect purity.
- Find a source of accountability, people who love you enough to call you out when you need it, but also pray for you as you battle (James 5:16).
- Memorize and be armed with the weapon of God’s Word. Speaking scripture to yourself or out loud is the weapon needed to battle the enemy. (1 Pet. 2:11 is a good one for that!)
- Finally, and probably the most important, call out to the Lord! Trust that He will answer and give you a way to withstand or escape the temptation (1 Cor. 10:13).
So how does the wise bride’s counsel to “not awaken love before its time” translate for us? As a Christian, sexual purity is more than just staying pure from sexual intercourse, or not going beyond the “line.” It is a state of the heart before God. Purity requires us to fear the Lord and love Him so much that we do not ask, “How far is too far?” but rather “How close to God can I get?” We are called to have a relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ and to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit so that we might set up boundaries of purity for ourselves in our bodies, emotions and thoughts. A friend of mine once told me how he looks at purity in his own life; “I do everything in my power, and God’s power within me, not to awaken any desire that cannot be righteously met.” Instead of asking How far is too far? in our dating lives, let’s run after the heart of God in every area of our lives!