Christians date. Although many may have their own opinions about dating, we do it, whether casually or with the intent of marriage. Whatever the intent, it's important to explore ideas about affection and whether we should set limits. But what is going too far? And how can we avoid it?
I think people vary on what their limits may be. I remember watching a wedding show (which I tend to do quite frequently---that'll be another blog) and the couple getting married shared their first kiss at the altar after their pastor announced them as husband and wife. For them, they felt that kissing was one of the most intimate things they could do to express their love for each other, so they decided to wait until their wedding day to share their first kiss. Is this a realistic goal? I think so....
When dating or getting to know someone, I think it's important to set your expectations at the beginning of the relationship. If you do not plan to have sex, then I think it's inappropriate to dish out sexual innuendos when your intent is to save yourself for marriage. Plainly stated, your initial conversations should not be about what you'd like to do sexually with an individual if your goal is to not pursue those avenues. It's traveling into dangerous territory and the Word teaches us to flee from temptation, not play with it. That does not mean, however, that you shouldn't address sexuality at the beginning of a relationship. It's a great idea to make sure that you're on the same page as your potential mate. Are they looking for a long-term relationship? Or are they just looking for a good time? It's important that you are honest with yourself in your own goals so that you can be completely honest with the person you're dating. Don't allow yourself to get caught in a situation where you end up letting your guard down and mingling your spirit with someone who's not interested in your middle name....
So back to these limits. How much affection is too much? Can I hold hands with someone? ...what about hugging and kissing?
Unfortunately, the Word does not give us direct answers on this issue. However, there are several scriptures that can be applied to this situation.
1 Thessalonians 5:22 instructs us to avoid evil. Paul wrote this letter to the church in Thessalonica to encourage them and provide instuctions on the way God wanted them to live. In the context (verses 12-22) Paul gives some final direction, including listening to those who have a word from God, but not being gullable. He wanted them to validate what they presented and only keep what's good and of God. Finally, he tells them to stay away from any type of evil, throwing it away so that it will not influence them.
Now how does this, written around 52 AD apply to us today? Let's concentrate on verse 22. In staying away from evil, we are, in essence, getting closer to God. Does that mean that a hug or kiss is evil? It depends on the situation. For some, hugging someone is not a trigger for further sexual exploration. However, a deep kiss can be instant panty remover for others. It's so important that you know yourself and know what you can handle, being clear and honest about what you cannot. If your plan is to abstain from having sex, then deep kissing may not be the best course of action.
Also, communication is key. If you are pursuing a relationship with someone, in addition to setting your sexpectations, it's important that you relay your vunerabilities. Hopefully, the person you're with will not use these weaknesses against you. If this is truly a contender as a mate, they'll want to build you up. Fellas, your girl will truly guard your heart and ladies, your guy will want to present you as a clean and spotless church before God. Check this out:
I Corinthians 8:9 AMP: "Only be careful that this power of choice (this permission and liberty to do as you please) which is yours, does not [somehow] become a hindrance (cause of stumbling) to the weak or overscrupulous [giving them an impulse to sin]."
Here's an example: Jan and Jim have been dating a while and they've had sex a few times, but have decided to remain celibate until their wedding in 3 months. Jan and Jim still show affection, but since they've communicated, they know their triggers and try to stay away from those "happy buttons." However, Jim just took a shower and decides to walk around Jan while completely naked, which usually revs her engine. ...so he proceeds to rev her engine and even though Jan explains that she's feeling particularly vunerable, he continues.
Jim used his power of choice to become a hindrance to Jan. Y'all, we are called to be so much more than that! Although I'm sure that Jim loves Jan and wants to be her future baby daddy, he was wrong as all get out! For him, walking around naked wasn't a big deal, but even though he knew it was to Jan, he proceeded.
This is where things can get complicated. What may be fine for one partner may be a "happy button" for another, which is why communication is key in establishing limits on affection. There is no cookie-cutter approach or shortcut. You just have to communicate effectively so that you don't yield to temptation, but flee from it. RUN! ...IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION! But for real, speak with each other so that you can set clear boundaries and not serve as just an occassion to sin. We are called to a higher purpose than that!
Be honest with yourself and be honest with your partner in establishing boundaries.
final thought: Ephesians 5:21-33
In relationships, you are to submit to one another. In submission, you're trusting not just that person, but the God in that person. Make sure that you're not submitting to a spirit that ain't holy....