What Kind of Physical Contact Isn’t Allowed Between an Unmarried Man and Woman Who Have a Romantic Relationship With Each Other?
Sermonette 7-13-02 Ann Arbor, Michigan UCG
My personal favorite quote from the writings of Ayn Rand, the philosopher and novelist best known for the novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged: “The uncontested absurdities of today are the accepted slogans of tomorrow. They come to be accepted by degree, by precedent, by implication, by erosion, by default, by dint of constant pressure on one side and constant retreat on the other—until the day when they are suddenly declared to be the country’s official ideology. That is the way welfare statism came to be accept in this country.” The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, p. 51
Sometimes, we faced with the reality of dealing with unpleasant subjects explicitly in order to draw clear distinctions and to avoid the other side winning by default. We’re faced with the consequences of the 1960s Sexual Revolution in this country in the media. Videos, TV, movies, and popular music are simply saturated with false images and values about sexual and romantic relationships. It’s necessary for us Christians to push back explicitly, or else Madonna wins, MTV wins, the Rappers win, etc.
One highly specific area we true Christians need to police ourselves more carefully in concerns what physical contact unmarried couples allow themselves during the dating/courtship process. I was a member of the Lansing, Michigan church for about 12 years. I can name four couples, one or both members of which had regularly attended the Lansing church at one time or another, in which the bride went to the altar pregnant. I know of one church area, which shall remain nameless here, which managed to rack up two out of wedlock births in a fairly short order some years ago, before the “Great Schism” of 1995. These cases concerned baptized people or those who regularly attended, not those who just went into the world and did their own thing heedless of God’s ways.
So today we’re going to look at one simple, potentially preventative solution to avoid “accidents” such as these. We need to consider in advance very carefully, explicitly, and not haphazardly what kind of physical contact unmarried couples who are dating or engaged should avoid. Otherwise, more “accidents,” such as I suspect were involved in most or all these cases just mentioned, will occur.
First, let’s consider why sometimes subjects which are unpleasant or offensive should be addressed publicly in the church.
Jesus offended the hometown crowd by saying gentiles could be more spiritually or physically blessed than Israelites or Jews are. And He did this despite a pagan, idolatrous gentile army of occupation ruled His nation at that time. He could have avoided the subject altogether. But He didn’t. And the hometown crowd literally wanted to lynch Him! Sometimes, in balance, it’s necessary to deal with subjects that are unpleasant or offensive to some, otherwise, by omission, by default, sin flourishes.
Now a fairly detailed discussion of sexual morality can be offensive or upsetting to some. But we’re faced with the reality that if we say little or nothing, Madonna wins, and MTV wins. That is, their values, or that of soap opera characters, win.
So now let’s see how explicit Scripture can be on matters of marriage and sex. God isn’t afraid to address the issues involved!
When discussing Israel’s sins in the Western Humanities class I teach at Davenport, I make this passage a class reading. I have an agenda in doing so: I wish to show the Bible wasn’t written by a Victorian prude. God used this blunt analogy to drive home emotionally how betrayed He felt by Israel’s sinful conduct so we humans could understand it better.
So now, let’s consider the need to build a safety margin into our dating/courtship practices between a romantically involved man and the woman.
I Cor. 6:18
It’s necessary to be specific to drive home the point. Vague generalities really aren’t enough. Insight of woman leading a large Sabbatarian church she felt was Laodicea—be specific about sin since speaking generalities don’t have much effect.
It’s simply necessary to build a safety margin in because of the tendency of one thing to lead to another and then to another until the process is completed.
Indeed, the reason why Mr. Armstrong said “necking” was a capital sin was because it was part of this overall process, and, importantly, a preparation for its completion.
Let’s take some examples: backrubs, which I’ve seen done once, and have heard about it being done in the church.
Kissing can be, if it’s a quick peck, but another type never is acceptable.
A hug can be, but if it’s held too long and too tightly, it becomes unacceptable also.
Joshua Harris, Boy Meets Girl, pp. 157-58. This evangelical author, when engaged to the woman who became his wife, worked out with her a highly detailed list of what was allowed and what wasn’t in order to give more specific protection to chastity and purity within their relationship. They didn’t leave it to time, chance, and subjectivity. For example, they believed it was fine to hold hands, but put playing with each other’s hair or touching each other’s face with their hands they judged to be off-limits. You could smile at their list, as he does himself today. But while we should avoid legalism on this issue, it’s necessary also to draw some bright yellow lines on the pavement of our dating relationships. It doesn’t guarantee no “accidents” will occur, but it helps to reduce how common they will be.
Subjectivity issue: Like keeping Sabbath in different people doing different things. But I would still maintain some acts are always sinful, regardless of the (alleged) thought process involved.
OMIT?: Benefits of waiting: 1. More special things saved for marriage, makes the bond between the couple stronger. 2. Won’t have unpleasant thoughts of having done certain things with others you didn’t marry when you do them with the man or woman you did marry.
This isn’t an issue just for young singles to think about. Parents need to instruct their children on these issues, or provide guidance as they get older. The young people here, who may never have been on a date, should think about these issues in advance, and be ready to draw back if the one they’re dating goes too far or asks to go too far. If you’re a single guy, try to avoid grabbing whatever any girl will give your or you can emotionally badger her into surrendering. Even grandparents, if they know their grandchildren well, should give some thought to guiding them on this subject if you think you’re close enough to them that they may be willing to listen some.
Conclusion: So today we’ve looked at some explicit guidelines for physical contact between a romantically involved man and woman who are still unmarried. Such a subject may be unpleasant to deal with, and offensive to some. But since Scripture can be very detailed in the matters of sexual conduct, we have good reasons to discuss this publicly. It’s necessary that we think about this general subject in advance and not make up our own rules haphazardly on the spur of the moment as we may be guided by lust at the time. We also may need to have the courage to provide advice or guidance to others in this area of their lives if we’re no longer single ourselves.
OMIT IF NECESSARY: So let’s avoid asking merely “What can we get away with?” It isn’t a Godly approach. As Leslie Ludy wrote in When God Writes Your Love Story, p. 68: “’How far is too far?’ (. . . is really a code question asking, ‘How much can I get away with and not make God mad?’ Let’s start asking a new question . . . ‘How far can I possibly go to bring joy to the heart of my heavenly Father in this area of my life?”