Hi Ernest, I need your advice. So my boyfriend and I have started dating. We are serious and heading for marriage. We are both born-again believers. We have made our stand on purity clear based on our values and our mutual faith in Jesus. We wanted to agree on everything so that there are no red flags. We even agreed that we would not make out, kiss and the like until the altar. We were both happy with this decision. But I spoke to a girl in my church who is a youth leader. I shared with her the good news about the relationship and our purity stance. She said that I should not be too uptight on purity. She said she and her ex used to make out but they did not have sex and it was okay. This is someone I look up to and I am now confused. I talked to my boyfriend about it and he refused to entertain that advice. (I think I found a Prince, lol!) He insisted that we remain on our purity course. But that girl’s words haven’t left me. So I was wondering, could I get your advice as a preacher so that I have no doubts on this at all.
First of all let me express my deepest gratitude to your boyfriend. A man who takes such a stance is to be admired. He is a keeper. On the other hand, let me express my deep disappointment in the youth leader. The church ought to guide the sheep not destroy it. I’m sure this girl being a leader in the church made you imagine that her advice is sound. But it is not. Our standard in the faith is not men, culture, celebrities or trends; it is God. Please do not make the grave mistake of imagining that church leadership always equals to spiritual maturity.
Now to the matter at hand. One of the most frequent things I witness as I minister to unmarried followers of Christ is the bold admission that sex outside marriage is wrong. And when I find out what they mean by sex the answer is always penetrative sex. And when I inquire about the foreplay (kissing, touching, fondling, rubbing etc.) I often see some of them shrug their shoulders, almost as if to say, “I guess it is okay.” And of course, this is parallel to the truth that many of them find themselves struggling to live a pure life.
When asked why they wait for sex until marriage, it is encouraging to hear that they do it for the LORD. Born-again believers in committed relationships headed to marriage are often cognizant of the need to live purely and flee fornication so as to please the LORD Jesus who bought them (1 Thessalonians 4:1). They realise that sex is a powerful and beautiful gift for marriage; it is not a harmless audition for dating.
However, what is disappointing to hear is the compromise in not pursuing a wholly pure life. A little fondling here, a little touching here, a little making out here and a little lustful titillation here often looks harmless. But it is anything but harmless. Here are four reasons why absolute purity is a necessity for the truly born-again man and woman.
1. Christ did not die partially
The motivation for the believer to pursue a pure sexual life and to delight in sex in marriage is not like the world’s motivation. The world gives STIs, pregnancy, school dropout and other circumstantial reasons as motivation to abstain or to use a contraceptive. Genuine believers do not believe that a contraceptive will cap fornication. This is because they understand that sex is more than just a physical act; it goes beyond the body and they know that there is no condom for your soul. For the believer, the motivation for sexual purity is far greater. Believers understand that God died on the cross to bring them from darkness to light. It is in light of that that Paul the Apostle reminds us that we are not our own and that we were bought at a price (1 Corinthians 6:19). We owe God.
So in response to the free and costly gift of the death of his son for the eternal salvation of our souls, we offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God (Romans 12:2). In response to the great debt that was cleared through the death of Christ, we surrender our will to Him. He sacrificed Himself by dying for us; we sacrifice ourselves in love by living for Him. We are a living sacrifice. However, the problem with a living sacrifice is that it jumps off the altar. It resists the sanctification. And more often than not, a Christian waiting for sex until marriage has one foot on the altar of sacrifice and the rest of the body off of it. To risk being brash but to communicate clearly, these Christians have their penises and vaginas on the altar (waiting for penetrative sex until marriage) but the rest of their bodies off the altar (making out, fondling, kissing and touching). Is that the living sacrifice that Christ desires? Does he require a partial living sacrifice while He died a whole death? Christ did not die partially; do not pursue purity partially.
2. Foreplay is not a pastime activity
The western culture of dating promotes foreplay as a pastime activity. Alongside going to the movies, enjoying a sunset and playing scrabble, sexual stimulation is lumped in like another hobby. The verse before the living sacrifice is Romans 12:1. It commands us to not conform to the pattern of this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. If we are going to please God, we will have to adopt his mindset. The act of sex is not relegated to penetration. That beautiful erotic act has phases. And these phases build up on each other. Foreplay is intended to prepare the bodies for arousal. Arousal fulfills its full circle to prepare the boy for penetration. Penetration builds up to reach the climax of pleasure. And pleasure relaxes the body towards resolution. When a Christian man and women fool themselves that the kissing and fondling is mere pastime activity like scrolling through social media, they ignite an engine that leads them down a path they may soon try to undo. But often I hear some hubristically say that they have self-control. Yet the LORD warns us not to imagine ourselves strong (1 Corinthians 10:12). Our deceitful and wicked hearts will make up any excuse to satisfy the flesh (Jeremiah 17:9). And if we are tempted, the LORD promises that there is always a way out (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Isn’t it high time that believers led the way in demonstrating fulfilling and enjoyable dating relationships that are not characterised by sin? The insistence that we need sin to enjoy our God-given life is perhaps proof that we do not have the God-given life in the first place (2 Corinthians 13:5). Do we have Christian men and women who can long for sex righteously and enjoy it righteously without abandon when the right time reaches? Do we have Christian gentlemen that can have romantic activities that can capture the hearts of their women without polluting their sexuality? Do we have Christian ladies that can honour the LORD Jesus above their boyfriends and still be madly in love with the idea of getting married someday? Can we engage the creativity of our faculties instead of using it to insult a Holy God? Lest I be accused of promoting a message without example, feel free to borrow these pastime ideas that Waturi and I employed when we were dating: picnics, long walks, day drives, arcade games and group dates. Foreplay is not a pastime activity.
3. Half-hearted purity breeds half-hearted intimacy
In counselling unmarried Christian couples who do not pursue purity wholly, we often see a correlation in their premarital and early marriage lives. When a Christian man becomes sexually familiar with a woman’s body outside of marriage, he loses desire for her. She does not stun him as she used to. In a sense, there is nothing exciting left to pursue. If he has looked forward to sex until marriage, there is little motivation left. If sex is a meal, it becomes increasingly difficult to honour a banquet invitation where nibbling has occurred for three years of dating. As a result, the attitude of the man towards the woman is often harshness, subtle disdain, impatience, lack of tenderness and poor boundaries with other women.
When a Christian woman becomes sexually familiar with a man outside of marriage she easily loses respect for him. She no longer sees him as a guardian of her purity but as a plunderer. She may question in her heart, “If he did not wait for me before marriage, what makes me think that he will wait for me during marriage?” She may feel soiled and taken advantage of but at the same time hate herself for not honouring her body as the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 6:19). She longs for a man who will love her like Christ loves the Church. Christ died for the church; the boyfriend is not dead to his lustful desires. Christ protects the church; the boyfriend uses her body. The resulting attitude of the woman towards her man is disrespect, dishonour, demeaning and comparison to other men.
Yet ironically, God has created the gift of sex within marriage to enrich the bond between a man and a woman; they become closer; that is because the bonding power of sex works within God’s will. Outside of marriage that same power destroys the intimacy between the Christian man and woman; they fall out with each other. Every good gift is meant to be enjoyed as it was created. When it comes to sexual sin, you don’t just break the law; it breaks you. Both man and woman have their sanctification hampered. Both man and woman love and respect each other less respectively. Both man and woman grow angry and indifferent to each other. Both man and woman grieve the Holy Spirit. Both man and woman lower their standards of purity not knowing they reject God’s rule and not man’s (1 Thessalonians 4:8). Because of their half-hearted purity, they experience half-hearted intimacy in their relationship and this kills the passion for Christian marriage.
4. God hates sexual defrauding
After reminding the Thessalonian church how to live out their sexuality, Paul the Apostle writes to them in 1 Thessalonians 4:6 “…That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.” (KJV). The Thessalonians are by far one of the best behaving churches of the Pauline epistles. Yet to this well-behaved church (read Christians waiting for sex until marriage) he gives a unique command that the other churches do not get. He tells them to not defraud each other sexually.
To defraud each other is to arouse sexual desires in the other person with no plan to fulfil that desire righteously. Imagine it like this; you just came from a very long journey. You have walked for more than 10 km. You are tired, hot and thirsty. You meet me holding a glass of refrigerated drinking water. I approach you with this water and ask you if you are thirsty. You say yes. I offer you the cool water. You raise the glass to your lips and take in the first sip of the refreshing water. Before you take another sip, I quickly pull the glass away from your mouth and prevent you from drinking the rest as I shout, “The rest is for later! The rest is for later!” If I did that, would I have made your thirst easier or worse? Of course, I have made it worse.
Yet that is the same thing many believers do with their sexuality. You tease each other’s sexual passion by making out and doing all the touching and then when penetrative sex begins to rear its head, you self-righteously interject “The rest is for marriage! The rest is for marriage!” And somehow a half-empty glass with several lips sipping bit by bit deceives the believer that they are still pure because they are technically a virgin. Yet by offering a sip of water you titillate each other sexually and make the wait until marriage harder. By consuming carnal entertainment you convince yourself you are still a virgin because penetrative sex hasn’t occurred but yet you’re akin to a harlot at heart. God is against this defrauding and titillating. Actually, he is more than against it; He personally bears the name of Avenger against the defrauder (1 Thessalonians 4:6 “…That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.” –KJV). Yes, the LORD goes all Hulk smash against sexual defrauders; marvel at that!
Defrauding is not a pursuit towards the goal of purity but rather it is an abandonment of the very goal. It is drifting away but still feeling falsely confident because you haven’t lost sight of the goal in the distant horizon. God desires that those who follow him approach the horizon of purity and not drift away from it; that way it grows greater and greater with each advance until you see that it is Christ himself dying on a cross for you; that’s purity. Those who draw nearer to the horizon see Christ more clearly and pursue purity more passionately. Those who edge away from the horizon see Christ more dimly and pursue purity with less ambition and seriousness. That is why the more intimate you get with Christ the surer you are about biblical purity. The less intimate you are with Christ the harder it is to wrap your head around carnal questions like “How far is too far?” Song of Songs 2:7 speaks of the power of sex with wisdom; to not arouse it before it is ready; to not defraud one another. This statement is said thrice in the book of Songs of Solomon. The writing is on the wall; worship God with your body; pursue purity wholeheartedly.