Christians

The “No-Touch” Policy

When I was in middle school, the administration instituted a No-Touch policy. I can’t speak to whether or not there was some kind of increase in physical altercations or anything morally inappropriate going on among the members of the student body, but it was decided that touching should be outlawed. You might imagine how all the young folks poked fun at the dictate; I wouldn’t be surprised if the policy actually caused the reverse intended effect. Nonetheless I think there’s a lot of wisdom in such a policy; I actually wish it was something that dating Christians considered more seriously. Ah yes, the always interesting subject of what Christians in pre-martial relationships should or shouldn’t do. Care to know where I stand? Want to be challenged? Ready for a perhaps intense discussion? Whether you’re a man or woman, young or old, even in a relationship or not… I wish to present the platform that the Bible supports the idea of dating or engaged Christians not touching each other.

To touch, or not to touch?

To touch, or not to touch?

Now before diving into my points, I will answer the question that may very well be on your mind already. Yes, Christine (my wife) and I touched before being pronounced husband and wife. But before you come at me with your hypocrisy pitchforks, I readily confess it wasn’t the right thing to do. It also wasn’t exactly serious, but we did touch. Early on though we made an effort to reign in that area of our relationship. I composed a three-page document detailing what I thought were quality principles to govern ourselves by based on what the Bible teaches. Feel free to download the finished product here actually, just know that the contents are by no means perfect; we didn’t follow everything to a T, and you might even get a chuckle or two from what I came up with. I want to direct your focus nonetheless to the first Do not bullet under the first major point, which reads: [Do not…] Touch each other, at all.

dating_rule

I put this together over 3 years ago.

Christine and I praise the Lord that our purposeful compromising hardly went further than leaning on each other’s foreheads while we were doing wedding and honeymoon planning. Are you thinking, “Why’s that such a big deal?” I’ll spend the rest of this article trying to explain my case.

I was floored to read that author Kevin DeYoung agrees with me about having a no-touch [dating] policy in chapter eight of his book The Hole in Our Holiness. We both think that Christians in general don’t give the idea much thought, and especially the millennial generation. Yet the truth is ladies and gentlemen that dating is a mere commitment to find out if you will ultimately become committed. It saddens me so much to see Christians conducting their relationships in the same ways unsaved people do. They hold hands. They hug intimately. They press up against each other. They pet one another. They even kiss. And that’s just what you see in public. I shudder to consider what sometimes goes on in secret. And why is it that parents and the church seem to frown upon this conduct less and less? I suggest that we’ve allowed ourselves to be more concerned about the opinion of dating Christians than the need to hold such Christians accountable to the teaching of Scripture. It’s no secret that more and more young believers are giving themselves over to pre-marital intimacy, and the Lord is not pleased!

Perhaps the number one reason dating or engaged Christians should not touch each other is for the simple fact that they don’t belong to each other. I’m sure you’ve heard that before. Someone you’re interested in always belongs to God and is someone else’s child before they’re ever your husband or wife. And I won’t agonize over the semantics of using the terms boyfriend and girlfriend. The fact remains that beginning to date someone doesn’t suddenly make them exclusively yours. And you won’t find any support in Scripture for intimacy prior to marriage. What you do find is verses like I Timothy 5:1-2, below.

Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.

I know the concept of dating is nowhere to be found in what Paul wrote to Timothy. However, I believe the above verses specifically address the issue of intimacy prior to marriage since all Christians are commanded to regard each other in all purity. This is what God says. So those of you who think pre-marital, intentional touching isn’t a big deal, please explain to me how the last three words of those verses alone ever begin to condone hand-holding, hugging, kissing, or anything else along such lines for dating Christians? Unbelievers engage in those ways because they don’t have a hint of interest in doing things God’s way! But God’s redeemed are different, and thus their relationships should be. What’s more valuable…the opinion someone (Christian or not) has about purity in a dating relationship, or what God thinks of our behavior? I don’t know about you, but I’m inclined to fear the One able to destroy the soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28)!

I also can’t help but be disappointed when I hear or know of dating Christians that claim they can control themselves. Well, God speaks to the impossibility of that in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Sure, that verse is addressed to Israel, but it rings no less true for any human being…even born-again Christians. Why, when we fallen humans are so quick to rationalize our sin, do we not think there’s something terribly wrong when dating Christians are touching one another? There’s one word to describe the attitude that you can control yourself in a pre-martial relationship where touching is permitted: prideful. And you might as well toss dangerous in there too.

Another thought… Why should a Christian want on their conscience the knowledge that they were at all intimate with someone they were dating, especially if the relationship ultimately ceases? This goes for the guy and the gal. A believer’s job is to help protect the purity of whomever he/she is dating for the sake of the person that will ultimately marry him or her, not to take advantage of him or her. If it actually is you who becomes married to said person…wonderful, but what if it isn’t? Does this reality not cross our minds anymore? There’s plenty of time and opportunity to figure out intimacy after the wedding; God never tells us to try to figure out physical compatibility before-hand. And there’s a reason for that; sex is meant above all else for God’s glory, and second to bless a married man and woman (Hebrews 13:4).

I’ll point out at least one more verse about this subject, Romans 13:14.

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

If you’re a Christian dating another Christian, I challenge you to explain how touching your boyfriend or girlfriend is anything other than self-gratification. Allow me to save you the time and trouble; you can’t. And yes, I regret even the forehead-leaning that Christine and I did a few times. I would have never done that with her outside of dating, and I sure wouldn’t have wanted someone else that she might have dated to do so either. Yet somehow it seems when Christians can say they’ve arrived to the point of dating someone, that somehow becomes a license for them to be licentious. It’s as though we think, “Alright, we got to the dating stage; we can do whatever we want now and act like we’re married!” Well, I think I speak for many other Christians when I say it’s great to see a believing man or woman begin dating, as it seems to be a process that more and more avoid nowadays. However, I believe with my whole heart that God isn’t the least bit impressed when couples dishonor the marriage bed by acting as though they’re already there. I don’t need to get into all the obvious physical reactions that take place when people, let alone dating Christians, touch; I’m here to simply plead that you stop if you are…or that you encourage others to stop if you’re observing it. My goal here certainly is not to condemn anybody, but simply to encourage that we get back to pleasing the Lord with our relationships…not ourselves.

My primary motivation for wanting to discuss this touchy subject is because I’ve been there. I’m responsible for making many ungodly decisions in years past, and committing many foolish sins against women. I praise God those sins are under the blood of Christ, but that doesn’t mean God suddenly reels in the necessary consequences. The details of what I’ve done aren’t important, but I understand at least somewhat how a man’s mind operates; and most others are likely similar to me as far as what they would do in the moment. Yet each of those moments in my life was a transgression against a holy God that clearly commanded me to not do what I was doing. This is an impassioned plea for you to wake up and smell the immoral coffee. A hand-hold leads to a hug. A hug leads to more physical closeness. Physical closeness leads to a kiss…and you get the picture. Go ahead and deny; assert that this doesn’t apply to everybody. But I’m not stupid; I know what the Bible teaches and what it says about the human heart. And above all else, God knows everything we do, and surely is not mocked (Galatians 6:7). If you’re dating and truly want to please God instead of yourself, I urge you to heed this warning before something awful happens!

Do you still think it is OK for dating Christians to touch? If so, why? How do you react to the Bible verses and principles I pointed out? (There could be many more, mind you.) How about those of you in a relationship? What do you think about all this? Are you perhaps observing dating Christians touching? I’d like to hear from you as well! In the end, in spite of the decisions my wife and I made prior to being married…I will always support a no-touch policy for Christians who are dating. No sin; no regrets.

Without Books, My Growth is Stunted

In November 2013, I pointed out that without a [Bible-reading] plan, I’m not in the word of God. I wrote that because I know reading the Bible isn’t an option for the Christian, and I also know how my flesh likes to operate. It’s not that I would fail to read altogether without a plan, but using one aids me greatly in studying more effectively. There’s another side to that coin however, which I wish to tackle now for your admonishment: without books, my [spiritual] growth is stunted.

books

Read a good book lately?

The previous comment does not mean I allow books to replace the Bible. I won’t by the grace of God and neither should you. No amount of wisdom available in the books our Christian brothers and sisters publish, as wonderful as it can certainly be, will ever come close to working in our lives as does the inspired work of our almighty, all-wise God. Human words are mere human words, a reflection if anything of the God that gave us the ability to communicate; they are not divine, not able to pierce to the division of soul and spirit, or discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). If we ever wonder what book will help us grow, to become more like Jesus Christ in this way or that, I hope our first inclination is to peer into the Bible and study what God says. God’s all-powerful words change hearts, nothing else. You and I must never forget that.

Nonetheless… well-written, relatable, well-thought-out, biblically-sound books are one of our heavenly Father’s many grace gifts to us His children. As the limited beings we humans are, God does not nor has He ever expected us [individually] to understand, let alone apply, His Scriptures completely on our own. Otherwise there’d be no point to listening to sermons or attending any kind of Bible study. It would be silly for the all-knowing, loving, eternal God to burden broken, finite people with such an impossible task. But that’s why God’s given us books too, tools that enable the believers that use them effectively to understand Him, the teachings of Scripture, and themselves, better. Such books often cause me to think, “Wow, how have I missed this in the Scriptures for so long?!”, or, “No fair! How was [the author] able to pull that truth out of those verses?!..” The problem is, you won’t have such thoughts if you aren’t reading.

“But I hate reading!”, you might ironically respond. Yeah, it wasn’t long ago that I too hated the thought of reading a book. I could never get into the classic novels in high school, though we were required to write reports about them, and I allowed those sour experiences to bring any possible future reading I might do to a grinding halt. Thankfully that years-long cycle ended in 2009, though developing a solid habit puttered even still until just last year. In 2013,  I determined to read at least a chapter or ten pages in a book every single day. I praise the Lord for success in pursuing that goal, and I refuse to ever look back. The spiritual dividends are too precious to me, and so I’m not really tempted to ever hesitate again along these lines. And I’ve written this article to encourage you to read books and benefit similarly.

What are the benefits, you ask? There are many, but I think the list of three below boils them down fairly well.

  1. You see the truths of Scripture through the author’s eyes. God teaches us through other people, not ourselves.
  2. You learn from what God has taught an author through their experiences. After all, through many trials  do we enter the kingdom of God…and it’s great to learn how others handled theirs! (Acts 14:22)
  3. You are discipled by the author. Has it ever occurred to you that [Christian] book-reading is a form of discipleship? The author doesn’t need participate in your local fellowship; you can learn from what they write!

Now I’m not about to frighten you with the insistence that you do exactly as I, but if book-reading hasn’t characterized your life lately, I want to challenge you to go through at least one in 2014. It doesn’t have to be something difficult, or 300-pages long. Anything that seems like it may help you or at least be interesting will do. The key, as I’ve learned, is simply doing it. Why don’t you just do it too? You might be surprised how your attitude changes about reading after the fact.

I’m happy to recommend a book if you’re not sure what’s out there. By all means comment below or contact me on Twitter or Facebook (available on the right-hand side!). Regardless fellow Christian, I hope you are or will become motivated to help yourself grow, to increase in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (II Peter 3:18). And you can do so by reading a book!

The Deception of Hype

After over 25 years, praise the Lord I’m finally starting to catch on. I’m still guilty of buying into it at times, and likely will be somewhere down the road. (That happens when you love technology and grow up living an entertainment-led lifestyle.) Yet each time I do inevitably leads to some measure of disappointment and/or frustration. And altogether I’m thankful that the word of God has been helping me, as only it can, to expose the spiritually-sinister concept known as hype for what it really is and how the enemy uses it.

hype

Does not come from God

You know what I’m talking about millennials. The people hired to market and advertise the products and services for hundreds of companies around the world are geniuses at drawing us in to their schemes. It’s such an obvious manifestation of what I John 2:15-17 teaches that it’s maddening that we often don’t seem to notice our own participation. The reality is that marketers and advertisers don’t do their jobs for our benefit. If anything, I’m sure these professionals laugh all the way to the bank while they gloat about just how painless it really is to jar us loose of our dollars in exchange for their flawed products and services. Congratulations to them, and shame on us!

I John 2:15-17
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world–the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions–is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but however doe the will of God abides forever.

Those verses don’t speak well of man. Frankly there’s nothing to speak well of concerning man. It’s pitiable that the very temptations which Adam and Eve gave in to in the garden, bringing upon us the Fall, are the exact same temptations that incite our sin several thousand years later. Also don’t forget that A&E were perfect before disobeying; they were merely capable of disobeying. Adam and Eve bought the serpent’s hype, as do we, year after year. And Satan’s playbook hasn’t changed. It hasn’t needed to. Our sins always fall under at least one of the sin pillars: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.

I highlight these truths especially because Christmas is almost upon us. You know, that day on the calendar when many believers pretend that they care more about the purposeful incarnation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ than about acquiring more and more “stuff”. It’s interesting and telling how Christ doesn’t mince words speaking to this subject in Luke 12, “Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (vv.13-15) Christ, as He always did, went straight to the heart of the matter. Man by nature has an insatiable greed for the world’s things, but what Jesus said applies also to putting so much stock into having some thing in the first place. Paul addresses this succinctly as well at the end of Colossians 3:5, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” In other words, convincing yourself that life won’t go on until you have some thing is nothing more than idolatry. It’s the belief that some thing will satisfy you more, or better, than Jesus Christ Himself. Ouch! This would characterize the majority of my 28+ years of life.

And isn’t it ironic that for these products, whether as seemingly small as a Starbucks latte or as significant an investment as an iPad Air, over time you inevitably discover one or more aspects that just don’t measure up to the hype…that fail to meet your expectations…that cause you to feel disappointed? (My examples may not apply to you; if so, insert what you know does.)  But of course, marketing and advertising will never warn you about such things. That would never be to their benefit. It’s their job to build up hype to insane decibels, to loudly drum up your expectations, and to convince you that your life will be finally fulfilled after point of sale. Again, that is not for your benefit. Each time you experience this disappointment or frustration with some thing, it should be a reminder that Christ is incapable of disappointing or frustrating us, at least not in a way that isn’t our own fault.

The fact of the matter is that the people who create the products we love and believe we can’t do without are no different from us. They’re the same flawed, sinful human beings who make mistakes, rebel against their Creator, and often live for self. I always shake my head in disbelief when I hear people suggest that company executives aren’t foolish or stupid enough to make decisions that ultimately cause great damage to, if not the downfall of, their brand(s). And it’s certain that as a result, the products they produce will reflect those realities. Why then do we join them as though we share the same goals?

How does it aid our walk with Christ, and how is it God-honoring, to spend a few dollars every morning on whatever wake-up magic that promises to start our day off just right? What happened to God’s law being the daily delight of our hearts? How does it aid our walk with Christ, and how is it God-honoring, to purchase every new iteration of a particular smartphone or tablet? What happened to the great gain of godly contentment? How does it aid our walk with Christ, and how is it God-honoring, when we wake up at some insane hour the morning after Thanksgiving…or camp outside a certain store, just to exchange dollars for some piece of junk that will inevitably disappoint or not even be used six months later? What happened to separation from the ungodly acts of the unbelieving world?

I’m hardly suggesting that Christians shouldn’t have fun with things, or purchase things. After all, God created everything, and there’s still good to be enjoyed in spite of sin and the curse. There’s nothing wrong with owning a tablet, a smartphone, new clothes, jewelry, some kitchen tool…whatever tickles your fancy. There is something wrong, however, if you consistently believe the enemy’s lies that you have to have some thing… that your problems will be solved, or that you’ll finally be happy… by having some thing (i.e. buying into hype), and subsequently you do whatever is necessary to possess such things.

The bottom line is that only Christ can and does satisfy, and only He is able to deliver us from these hype hooks! Recall the temptations Christ was victorious over in the wilderness. Satan tempted Him with the suggestion of turning stones to bread because He was hungry (lust of the flesh); Satan tempted Him with rule over the world’s kingdoms (lust of the eyes); and Satan tempted Him with fame and a following if He would only jump off the temple’s pinnacle and rescue Himself with God’s angels (pride of life). Yet with Scripture the Lord Jesus defeated Satan, and so must we, along with of course depending fully upon His grace and making Him the treasure of our hearts. Not things.

Christ alone can fill your heart with true joy. The Pharisees and Sadducees wanted hype, but got simply Christ Himself. That’s really what we need, Jesus Christ Himself. That’s how it should be. He alone must be the object of our faith that we simply can’t live without. Anything else will inevitably disappoint and/or frustrate. Thus, this 2013 Christmas season [and beyond], be wary of the world’s hype, as used by the enemy!