Sometimes teens ask about the physical side of dating with the question ‘How far is too far?’
I’m not going to answer this directly and I’m certainly not going to give a list of things that are ok and things that are not. Instead, I want to come right back to basics and to challenge you because if you are asking this question you are looking at it in the wrong way.
Just suppose there is a line somewhere with safety this side and danger the other. Why on earth would you attempt to see how close you can get to that line without going over it? Surely it is much better and much safer to stay as far away from that line as possible?
It’s the same with the ‘line’ between right and wrong – if indeed we can clearly draw one. If we are serious about wanting to honour God, we won’t push his boundaries, and we won’t see how far we can go before we sin. The Bible makes it very clear that sin is something to be feared, and something to be avoided at all costs. Sin angers God, ruins our relationship with him and does a lot of harm to ourselves and others.
Speaking specifically about sexual sins, Solomon says ‘Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?‘ (Proverbs 6:27-28).
The teaching is simple. If you play with fire you will get burned. So, if you and your boyfriend/girlfriend are sincerely wanting to go about things in a God honouring way, stay as far away from that line as you can.
Writing to the Thessalonians, Paul says ‘For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honour, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God…‘ (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 ESV). It’s worth reading through the first eight verses in this chapter and thinking about them carefully. Again the teaching is clear, God’s will is for us to control our own bodies and strive for holiness.
Our culture teaches something different; that we should go wherever our desires take us and with pleasure (and/or sex) being an end in itself. However, as we wrote in a previous post, Christians should do things differently, focusing on purity and the longer-term reasons for dating someone. If you start to go down the route of experimentation and pushing boundaries you will find that you are in great danger of not only straying across that line, but leaving it miles behind you. This can happen unintentionally – sexual feelings and desires are very strong and can easily control you rather than the other way round.
As a quick example of the problem of pushing boundaries think of Lot.
When he and Abraham separated, Lot went east to the plains of Jordan where the land looked lush and fertile. We’re told that he ‘pitched his tent toward Sodom‘ (Genesis 13:12). He’s not in Sodom, but he’s gone in that direction. However, in the very next chapter, we then read that Lot ‘dwelt in Sodom‘ (Genesis 14:12).
We are told that he was a righteous man but he kept pushing boundaries. When he left Abraham, he probably had no intention of living in the wicked city of Sodom, but because he was guided by his own wishes rather than God’s ways, that is exactly where he ended up. He went sailing over the line and it did him and his family no good at all (see Genesis 14 and 19).
So when it comes to any aspect of your life, but especially with dating and sex, don’t ask ‘How far can I go before I’m sinning?’ Instead, the God-honouring way and a much better question to ask is ‘How can I stay as far away from sin as I possibly can?‘
It’s also worth checking out these past articles: