immorality

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.

Not Even A “Hint”

Do you like eggnog? I love it. If you answered yes, how do you like it? Plain Jane? Super sweet? Whipped cream on top? With a caramel twist perhaps? Regardless, I think there’s consensus that no eggnog is quite eggnog without a touch, or as some would say a hint, of the classic spice nutmeg. And it doesn’t take much. A hint is but a mere sprinkling of the brown powdery goodness, and somehow it has the power to transform what’s by default a good consuming experience, to one that’s fantastic.

Goodness!

Now, I hate to do this after introducing a topic that’s so much fun to think about. My apologies. I was trying to soften your smack into the following brick wall. God’s word has something to say about a hint, and for believers, consuming what it’s tied to is anything but fantastic.

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. (Ephesians 5:3, NIV)

This issue hits very close to home for me. That’s because I’m fortunate to be a follower of Jesus Christ who by His grace alone, administered through members of His body, managed to recently escape the clutches of pornography. I was sadly addicted to the junk for 15 years, and only in mid-2009 did the Lord enable me to break free of its iron grip. It didn’t just happen though; I had to choose freedom. Clearly gifted fellow Christian Nick Vitellaro agrees with me on that point as well in his barely longer than 7-minute video on YouTube, Sincerely Freedom (also below), where he offers another sorely needed testimony that’s factual, transparent, and full of hope. I don’t know him and have never talked with him, and I know he’s one of many to speak about immorality, but I appreciate his video very much and usually watch it once a week. I further hope God will also use the remainder of my thoughts to add to the transparency that the body of Christ needs so badly, and challenge you fellow believers to fight this war with much more gusto.

The fact is ladies and gentleman… all manifestations of sexual immorality (immodesty, pornography, crude joking, immoral thinking, etc.) are a terrible danger to the church. This sin is destroying lives, testimonies, marriages, and families every single day. (Not that others don’t, but I’m focusing on immorality.) Are we capable of stopping it? No. Sure, we can be thankful that organizations like the Pink CrossXXX ChurchOne Million Men, Covenant Eyes, etc, exist to rescue sex workers, help those addicted to the industry’s products, and spread the gospel… but Christians will never be able to rid the world of this sin. Only God can destroy sin and change lives, but we can keep the reality of this sin and our battle with it at the forefront of the church’s attention. There’s a reason Ephesians 5:3 is in the Bible. God knew that sexual depravity would be rampant in every generation, because it exists anywhere that humans beings exist.

What is the bottom-line teaching of Ephesians 5:3? What does that phrase, not even a hint, even mean? Well, I assume you at least know of the Peanuts character Pigpen? I reference the dirty fellow to suggest that Ephesians 5:3 commands all Christians to be the exact opposite of him at all times when it comes to stinking of immorality (i.e. not having even a hint). Why? Because sexual sin is rebellion against the God who created sexuality, and it costs the offender and the offended dearly. There’s a reason sexuality is spoken of so much in Scripture! Because cheap sexual thrills deliver only victims, brokenness, and despair. You need to understand this, or else the issue just won’t grab your heart like the apostle Paul intended. To not have even a hint of immorality, you must consider everything you dosay, and think. So, those comments laden with innuendo and double meanings? Those jokes about anything pertaining to sexuality? Provocative name-calling? God says all that is unacceptable. Expressing yourself sexually in a physical way that isn’t tied to the marriage bed? God says that is unacceptable. Wearing clothing that exposes just a little extra chest and thigh? Listening to music with sexual rhythms and lyrics? Flirting with someone not your spouse? The Bible says that all is unacceptable. And perhaps the most overwhelming of all… all that mentally undressing of people you consider “hot”, or those thoughts of the sexual gymnastics you’d like to make that “hot” person perform for you? The Bible says all that is completely unacceptable. Believers must be [sexually] holy because God is holy! How have you fared in all this?

Does God actually believe that His elect will never be guilty of this? Did God ever expect us to never be guilty? No, but that doesn’t cause Him to diminish His perfectly holy standard in any way. If He did, there’s no telling how much worse the problem would be in society. It’s bad enough as it is! We don’t need any reason to think less of our sinfulness.


Not the idea for believers!

Wow, could we get any more depressing around here?

Thankfully, there is of course hope in the grace of Jesus Christ, Who died to crush sin’s dominion over us. As a believer, sexual sin need not have dominion over you, and to have regular victory over it is possible because of the cross. Notice how I said regular though, because permanent victory will only occur when a believer goes to glory. Until then, I challenge you to consider what I believe is the best way to act upon the grace of our Savior if you’re desperate to break free from some sort of sexual sin. You won’t like it, and you’ve likely heard/seen it from many other Christians, but really… you must choose to be helped by someone in the body of Christ! You must allow Christ to use someone to help change you, to place you on the path to rebuilding your relationship with the Lord! It’s just impossible to do this alone, because the flesh is weak. It is incapable. We often don’t do the right thing, even if we want to. (Romans 7) This is why you need to go to someone, because God uses people to snatch them (i.e. especially Christians struggling with [sexual] sin) out of the fire (Jude 23).

Wildly promising God every day that you’ll never do it again is a losing strategy. Clearing your website history only removes the bread crumb trail, and your activities are probably infecting your device of choice with a ton of spyware. Setting up blocks to various websites is a dud, because you’ll always find more. No amount of reading the Bible for the sake of reading it will rescue you. Anything else that you’ve tried, or are trying now, is a losing strategy. This is why you need help. Your mind is damaged, altered even, as is your heart and soul. And the sooner you realize that most members of Christ’s body would be more than happy, truly eager, to guide you on the path to healing…rather than judgmental and condescending, the quicker you’ll get on that path. All you have to do is open your mouth. I did that with the assistant pastor of my church, who at the time I didn’t know for longer than five minutes or five sentences. Who could be the one Christ is directing you toward?

Realistically, I don’t expect the moment you’re done reading that you’ll suddenly contact someone and spill your guts. I understand the sinful nature with respect to immorality too well to know that’s not typically how it works. I’m not stupid. You will want to continue hiding. Despite how miserable it is, you love your sin. You don’t want to give up how good immorality feels in spite of the guilt that tears at your heart, mind, and soul. You think it’s fun to watch those “hot” sex acts that the unfortunate women in porn are made to do, despite they’re being very unhealthy and abused. How do I know all this? Because I hid, loved the sin, loved how good it felt, was racked with guilt for 15 years, and thought most of the acts I saw were “hot”. Am I perfect in this area now? Absolutely not. Sometimes I still lose as far as what goes on in my head. This is a daily battle, and I’m fighting right along-side you! (II Corinthians 10:3-6)

Quit playing the hiding game!
Quit playing the hiding game!

You need help, as I did. You need to return to Christ from your sinful addiction, as I did. I pray often that millennials who are still eyeballs deep in their lustful indulgences will take advantage of the obvious tools God has placed in their lives. Most are too scared (read: prideful) to take the initial steps toward being restored to their Savior. I don’t say these things to criticize, or to put myself on a pedestal. What I actually do is ache for every one of you who are in this boat. I hurt so much, and cry on occasion, because I know now first-hand the joy of what it means to express oneself sexually in the way God intended, and I hate that so many are missing out on that. The devil’s lies have convinced millions that unbiblical sexual acts are good, and that there’s no consequences to engaging in them. He is very skilled at making sin look perfectly harmless. It’s been in his playbook since Genesis 3. Yet the truth is that the devil isn’t trying to promote God’s reality, but twist it so that millions are dragged into eternal torment with him. If you’ve bought the lie, just as I did, it’s tearing you apart.

Like my friend Nick V. says, “Freedom is a choice”. It won’t just happen. You can’t be “smart enough” to gain freedom because sanctification isn’t an intellectual exercise. You can’t be “regretful” enough and/or “punish” yourself enough to break free because repentance is taking God’s side against your own and making your decisions based on that. You must choose to allow Jesus Christ back to the throne of your heart and let Him stay there. And no individual Christian is strong enough to do that on his/her own. That’s why you need someone else’s help! God works through His people. Noticed the idea yet? It’s probably hard for you to see and understand if your addiction is severe enough, but if you make the right choice in the future, it will become more apparent. Sin blinds and confuses, but thankfully the hope we have in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross is more powerful than anything along these lines.

I conclude with one simple, earnest plea. Fellow believer, trapped in sexual sin… please, get yourself help. Believers that are not, please pray for those that are. And hopefully I also didn’t ruin the next time you have some delicious eggnog.

Recommended books: sex isn’t the problem, lust is (Joshua Harris)Finally Free (Heath Lambert)The Hole In Our Holiness (Kevin DeYoung)every man’s battle