by Mark DuPré
I'd like you to meet Pastor Mark DuPré. He and his wife Diane have been my mentors for several years now, and I simply love them to pieces. They have played a pivitol roll in helping me become who I am today. Mark is also a film professor at RIT, associate pastor of Christ Community Church, musician, and author of How to Act Like a Grown Up. He and Diane are also the ones I've asked "how far is too far?" and "how do I stay pure while dating?" (among many, many other questions).
I asked Pastor Mark to share some of his wisdom with you. Here's what he had to say...
How Far is Too Far?
This is often the first question that comes to mind when we think of sexual/physical boundaries. But if we stay with that question and let it guide our thinking, we’ll miss God’s wisdom and start heading in the wrong direction.
Asking, “How far is too far?” seems to suggest that we want to go to “the line” and hopefully, no further. But there are a number of problems with that way of thinking.
First, thinking about getting close to the line can be dangerous. If you play around at the edge of a cliff, for example, you’re much more likely to risk falling over than if you’re playing in the field 500 yards away from the edge. How many Christians have fallen for this trap of hoping just to go “the line,” and have become truly regretful about where things ended up going, saying truthfully (if a little naively) that they never meant to go all the way? There’s been far too much heartbreak—and too many unintended pregnancies—that have resulted from that thinking.
Secondly, some think that the only rule for the unmarried is to avoid fornication. No intercourse, no sin—right? But there’s a lot more involved—and at stake— than that. There are other issues than simply crossing the "fornication" line.
Practical, biblical advice:
Song of Solomon gives some of the most practical advice. This Old Testament book is the one that pays the most attention to sexual intimacy. Three times (2:7; 3:5 and 8:4) it says, with slight variation, to the virgin central character of the book:
I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
Do not stir up nor awaken love
Until it pleases.
This is the idea behind the best advice I ever heard on this subject: Don’t start anything you can’t finish. If intercourse is what you’ve just stopped short of, you’ve gone too far. If you have to pull yourself back, you’ve gone too far. If you’re sexually aroused at all, you’ve probably gone too far.
Honoring one another:
Marriage is the only godly context for finishing what a couple starts in terms of sexual arousal. The world doesn’t get this, but we need to start owning this. So the question for the believer isn’t “How far is too far?” The big question is “What honors God, what honors my boyfriend/girlfriend/fiancé, and what is smart in OUR relationship?”
What gives glory and honor to God is not only that we obey His commands in terms of what we avoid, but also in what He commands. He commands us all over the place to honor one another. (Romans 12:10 says, for example, Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.) When we get married, we show honor to our spouses by having sexual relations with them.
We show honor to our boyfriend/girlfriend by avoiding fornication, and by not getting anything started that would leave either person frustrated. We honor them by not doing anything that would make them feel they had violated their conscience. How many times I’ve counseled boyfriends in a relationship that part of their responsibility in this area is to send their girlfriends home with a clear, clean conscience. Anything other than that is selfishness. “Stirring up or awakening love…” before the right time and hurting anyone’s conscience—that’s not honor, and it’s not love.
I’ve known young couples that have completely blown past the boundaries, and nearly all regret it. Some played with fire enough that they eventually got burned.
Some decide to limit things to kissing, but there are two categories of activity here, and they should never be confused. Some couples can do a lot of kissing, and don’t put themselves in the position where they could do anything else. They don’t allow themselves to be in an environment where they can go further sexually. They keep the kissing chaste and sweet, rather than sexual, and so nothing really “gets started.” The kiss is as far as they are ever going to go; each person knows it, embraces it, and won’t ever allow things to go further.
Others may think or pretend that they are doing that, but their kissing is not the righteous and loving expression of two unmarried people in love. The kissing of this kind of couple is a highly sexual expression that would normally lead to intercourse if they didn’t rip themselves away from each other. It’s not the sexual endpoint of a righteous expression of love, but the beginning of something they can’t complete righteously. There’s a huge difference between the two.
Other couples contain one or even both partners that don’t dare do anything more than a kiss and hug, and some not even that. Seriously? Yes, seriously! I’ve seen the full spectrum of agreed-upon behavior, including those that haven’t dared kiss before marriage. I’m not recommending that—just saying that I’m familiar with couples that for their own reasons have agreed to that. (And for the curious, it’s obvious that that didn’t pose any problems once they were married!)
Petting? Fuggedaboutit! Outside of marriage, it’s way too sexual and it’s essentially selfish. Outside of marriage, it certainly doesn’t honor your loved one.
Lust as a lifelong battle:
I Thessalonians 4:3-5 raises another issue that’s hard to see for many to see from this side of the wedding. It says:
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.”
Lust is an ever-present temptation, for unmarried as well as married. Learning to resist lust is a life-long issue; it doesn’t disappear just because you’re married. Therefore, we need to get victory over it as early as possible.
Controlling and resisting lust is more than avoiding the sin of fornication. It’s not letting lust take us into anything that dishonors God and our partner. It’s not letting lust lead us to doing anything—anything—that violates either person’s conscience. It’s not allowing ourselves to get anything going that we can’t righteously bring to completion.
Cool theological point:
We all recognize that stealing is wrong. When we go to places sexually that we don’t have the right to, we’re stealing from our own futures. There’s a commandment about that!
All of this can seem like legalism, or all about limits, or just too constricting. But if we have a heart that wants what God wants, it’s much, much easier to act rightly in this area. It’s not about where the line is; it’s about honor, controlling lust, being wise and real about ourselves and our loved one, and believing that God really does have His best for us in every stage of our lives.