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How Far Is Too Far?

Grantley Morris

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Practical Help for Christian Singles of all Ages In Setting their Own Guidelines

[Also See  Section on Marriage]

ĎRecently my fiancťe and I made the horrible mistake of having sex outside of marriage and it has damaged our relationship, and also severely damaged my relationship with God. I canít seem to find peace with Him and the adversary is all around me making everything even worse. I have this gut-wrenching feeling inside of me that will not go away. I feel torn apart . . . .í

As I read the heart-breaking e-mail, I learnt that he had been a Christian since he was in his early teens. My mind flashed back to the shock I felt when I first heard the claim that research suggests that nearly as many Christian couples as non-Christian have at least once fallen into premarital sex. Then I remembered what I had once written about temptation, and with that the mystery slowly unraveled. Hereís the gist of what I remembered:

Most people who lose their battle with temptation do so because they donít start the fight soon enough. They let the Tempter have too many early victories. They give the Evil One easy, uncontested wins by hardly thinking twice about viewing/hearing/reading things that weaken them, and dabbling with Ďlegitimate pleasuresí that edge them closer and closer to the crumbling cliff face.

Suppose you are in a leaking boat. You are lounging on deck as the water seeps in a few bucketfuls an hour. No problem. Any fool can bail that out. Hour after hour you continue to snooze until suddenly you find yourself plunging towards the ocean floor. You then bail furiously but itís too late. The disaster was not the product of some momentary weakness or inexplicable lapse the last five seconds. It was all so avoidable, if only the danger had been taken seriously.

Thatís what itís like with temptation. Act soon enough, and youíre safe. Take no action as temptation begins to seep in, and the danger slowly mounts until finally not even the strongest saint could survive the onslaught.

Itís not what happens in a moment of weakness that is critical. What matters is what you do right now to protect yourself from those moments.

I began wondering how far back from intercourse one must begin the fight. If there is no big difference between Christians and non-Christians when it comes to the movies they watch and the way they kiss when dating, should we be surprised if there is no big difference further down that slippery slope?

It would be very wrong to suppose that knowing where to draw the line is just a young personís problem. It is a dilemma for Christian singles of all ages, breaking countless hearts, even when it hasnít lead to a moral fall. A woman in her mid-sixties, having been widowed for several years, was not only free from fresh memories of sex, she had gritted her teeth during marital relations throughout her long marriage. A 70 year old widower, whom she felt no physical attraction to, tongue kissed her. Despite what we might expect from her age and sad sexual history, she found it dangerously arousing. He couldnít see a problem. She felt herself inching closer to a no-longer dormant volcano of uncontrollable passion. The result was heart wrenching as she tried to explain why she had to back off.

As I pondered the danger of snoozing in a leaking boat, I recalled a feature of lovemaking that I, being unmarried, suddenly found alarming.

Because of its key role in maintaining marital oneness, lovemaking is divinely designed to disarm oneís reservations and aloofness and be almost drug-like in its amazing ability to soothe. In fact, when the Bible speaks of David comforting his grieving wife, it resulted in pregnancy (2 Samuel 12:24). The nearly miraculous power of lovemaking to comfort and reassure is a feature not just of those aspects of lovemaking that must be restricted to marriage. Even something as innocent as holding hands or saying or hearing the words, ĎI love you,í is infused with an almost hypnotic power to melt away oneís apprehensions and make a couple feel wonderfully secure and at ease in each otherís presence. Little wonder, then, that when, as an unmarried couple, we become even slightly affectionate, we tend to let our defenses down in the very situation that we need to be on heightened alert to sexual temptation.

Two devout Christians who had been dating received a very special touch from God in a church service. They left the church on a spiritual high, and after an hour or so they fall into sin with each other. Devastated, they came to their pastor in tears. ĎHow ever could this have happened at such a time?í they asked in shattered disbelief. They had been feeling so close to God that they supposed they were invulnerable. Filled with the warm love of God and excitement over what he had done, their feelings imperceptibly slipped from God to love for each other and slowly gained momentum on the roller coaster ride to out-of-control passion. The enemy is like a beast of prey silently stalking those who suppose think would not be attacked. Heís smart enough to know that those who are on the alert for danger will spot him early and be off in a flash; running so fast that heíll never sink his teeth into them.

    ĎSo, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you donít fall!í (1 Corinthians 10:12).

In other words, a false sense of security is as spiritually lethal as passionate kissing behind the steering wheel of a speeding car.

The issue is not whether a couple can trust each other but whether they can trust the devil. Letting our defenses down is as smart as bedding down to sleep across a railway track.

If we were alone with a stranger of ill repute, alarm bells would be blaring within us. Not so, when we are alone with our most trusted and dearest friend. And yet we have a deadly spiritual enemy who delights in tempting us when we least expect it, and in getting at us through the person we love and respect the most. He used this very ploy on the Holy Lord himself. ĎGet behind me, Satan,í the Son of God was forced to tell his best friend. Moved by love, Peter was trying his utmost to comfort and reassure his dear friend. It was at that very moment that the enemy slipped in. Peter had no idea that his attempts to comfort his beloved Master were being used of the Evil One to tempt the Holy Lord (Matthew 16:21-23).

Given the soothing, reassuring nature of lovemaking and the fact that it involves our dearest friend, it is hard to think of any other type of temptation in which we are so lulled into letting our guard down. Add to this the fact that even limiting oneself to handholding Ė to say nothing of further down the slippery slide Ė is like trying to stop at eating a single salted peanut. No wonder so many of us fall!

There have been times and societies in which couples were never allowed alone until after the wedding. That sounds hopelessly old-fashioned Ė almost as old-fashioned as virginity is becoming. Iím seeking, not necessarily to convince you of the wisdom of the past, but to stimulate your thinking. My goal throughout this webpage is to inspire you to stretch your mind and to think outside the square in your personal search for wise, Spirit-led ways to avoid soiling yourself. This is needed because the sad reality is that the approach of average present-day Christian couples is simply not working.

By the way, donít let the Deceiver tell you that because of a past tragedy you have nothing left to preserve. If you are trusting Christís miraculous ability to purify, then you are his virgin and have everything to preserve. You wonít want to break the heart of the One who gave his all for you.

Insanely In Love

My years of dating combine with my virginity to make me feel I could resist almost any temptation to engage in physical sex. Such thinking is dangerous speculation. Nevertheless, Iíve indulged in this madness to highlight an entirely different area of vulnerability that must be considered when deciding how far is too far. Even if I were completely safe when kissing a woman, what temptation am I inviting afterwards, when I am alone with my thoughts? What sin might my mind slip into while trying to shut my brain down for the night? How hyped up will I get when trying to sleep? What might I be tempted to do to relieve the pressure? Might I avoid sin with her, only to grieve my Lord afterwards in response to passion I had stirred up during my time with her? [Also See Sexual Purity Beyond Legalism]

It had always seemed impossible, but after an apparently endless fight, involving ruthlessly denying myself any sight or thought or touch that even slightly aroused it, I have finally managed, with massive help from God, to put my sex drive to sleep. Having experienced the advantages, there is no way I want to risk waking it.

Yes, an unsuspecting couple might end up sinning together. The blotch would indelibly embed into their brains and like a blood-sucking parasite they would carry the memory inside them until their dying day. But to this consideration, we must add the more subtle but spiritually dangerous matter of what getting amorous might lead to when the couple are apart. And yet to these concerns we are forced to add yet another need for caution about the physical side of a relationship. And this third factor makes me want to be even stricter in the amount of physical contact I permit myself. Here it is: even something as mild as handholding can lower my ability to choose the right life partner.

Did you know that fond Ė as in ĎSheís fond of him,í Ė originally meant stupid or mentally retarded? That initially startles us, but upon further reflection it fits the jigsaw. Modern English language about couples in love is filled with such expressions. Heís insanely jealous, sheís mad about him, theyíre crazy about each other. Such expressions are a part of everyday speech because experience has taught multitudes that the high of being in love grossly affects our ability to be level-headed. The exhilaration might be exciting but a reduced ability to make level-headed decisions as to who we marry takes some of the mystery out of why the divorce rate is so high. [Also See Can Christians Divorce and Remarry]

Did you know that far more arranged marriages last than marriages based on romantic love? Itís not surprising when we think about it. What concerns me is that even physical contact lowers still further our ability to choose the right marriage partner. Let me explain.

I am plagued with a deep ache for very basic touch Ė handholding and a hug. (Mind you, if that need were met it would slowly ignite a burning for going just that little bit further. And if I yielded that tiny bit, Iíd be satisfied Ė for a while. Then a craving would grow to get just that little bit more physical with my friend. On and on it would go, like a junkie, who month after month needs higher and higher doses to keep his craving at bay.) But even without the complication of the need escalating, touch brings with it a most disturbing danger because choosing to marry the wrong person must be one of the worst mistakes anyone can make. If a woman I were dating met my basic need for touch, she would merely be doing something millions could do and yet it would heighten my feelings for this one woman. I might presume that I enjoy a womanís companionship and hardly be aware that most of my enjoyment has nothing to do with her uniqueness but is just the thrill of having my basic need for touch met, like almost any woman could do. I might only be dating, with marriage being far from my mind, but I cannot guarantee that my feelings for her would never end up drifting towards marriage. The high of having my need for touch met by someone I am dating would further fog my brain at the very time when clear thinking is both more elusive and more important that at almost any other time of my life.

Since there must be few things in life worse than ending up married to the wrong person, this is a matter about which I desperately need to hear from the all-knowing, all-wise Lord. Looking for a partner is most certainly not the time to risk having raging hormones drown out the Spiritís whispers.

My longing for marriage rose-tints my glasses. Iím so desperate that the moment I see a woman seeming to have the slightest potential as my wife, glaring deficiencies in her vanish in a rose-colored haze. Iím alarmed at how blatantly unsuited to me some of the women were who for a while I thought might possibly be ideal for me.

Have you ever been shocked to discover that a radio announcer isnít half as good-looking as you had imagined? When getting to know someone there are huge gaps in our knowledge. If we feel positively towards that person our imaginations inevitably fill in these gaps with things that are better than reality. Add to this natural tendency a longing to find as soon as possible that Ďsomeone specialí and we find ourselves swept off our feet by a torrent of wishful thinking, when getting to know someone we are initially attracted to. How long does it take for women to see their future husbands as someone who burps, snores and picks his nose? How many men see their future wives as someone who will have stretch marks and moods and frivolously spend their hard earned money? We are seldom aware that what we suppose to be our intimate knowledge of our friend is peppered with significant chunks that are not the real person at all, but simply our guesses and wishful thinking. As they say, Ď[Romantic, hormonal] love is blind, but marriage is an eye-opener [i.e. we discover reality after itís too late to correct a life-determining decision].í Even when keeping open their physical eyes, dating couples kiss with their eyes closed. Like you, I want to come to my senses before plunging into what might be the biggest mistake of my life.

We have already mentioned the almost intoxicating ability of touch to generate a feeling of closeness and oneness. It is frighteningly hard not to confuse this physical feeling with a genuine oneness of mind and spirit. When dating, we are unconsciously evaluating someoneís suitability as a potential life partner. Even light petting can create a most convincing illusion of oneness at a time and in an area of life in which illusions can have life-shattering implications.

Friendship is such a vital ingredient of an enduring relationship and yet when hormones kick in, they so dominate as to swamp everything Ė even the ability to develop genuine friendship. If you are not ruthless in toning things down, by the time things calm down enough to discover that you donít have what it takes to be good friends, you might already be married.

Our sole defense against spiritual attack is faith in the power of Christ, not faith in human rules. ĎSo I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful natureí (Galatians 5:16). Nevertheless, the same Bible commands us to flee youthful lusts (2 Timothy 2:22). We are called not to stoically endure lustful pressures but to hightail it out of there, putting as much distance between lust and us as we can. This is such an important spiritual principle that on four different occasions the New Testament tells us to flee from sin and temptation (1 Corinthians 6:18; 10:14; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22). Thatís how we escape the sin that could entrap us, and fix our eyes on the Author and Perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Joseph maintained his purity not by praying while enjoying a seductive womanís attention, but by literally running away from her when she started getting physical (Genesis 39:12). When, day after day before that, Potipharís wife had tried to seduce him verbally, Ďhe refused to go to bed with her or even be with herí (Genesis 39:1, emphasis mine). Note how far back from intercourse he drew the line. No matter how inconvenient, nor how much he was missing out on, nor even how weak some people might think him by acting that way, he set boundaries and stuck to them and he even added stricter ones (running) when that became necessary.

We donít prove what good Christians we are by taking heroin, confident that in Christ we can break the habit at any moment; we prove our devotion to Christ by totally avoiding any experimentation with things that entice. We donít prove our commitment to Christ by playing chicken with the devil, seeing how close we can get to grieving God without actually falling. Setting a big gap between you and forbidden pleasure is the spiritual, God-honoring way to act.

The Story So Far

We have explored reasons for getting it right when setting limits in expressions of love. We have yet to get to the nitty-gritty of spelling out those limits, however. I have also discovered a factor that often pushes us into things we regret and yet is so subtle that few of us ever realize that it pushed us. So letís plunge into these critical issues.

When I began this webpage I never expected to write things youíll find here. Mentally and prayerfully wrestling with this subject has changed me. Iím astounded to have discovered things about myself that operate on an almost subconscious level. And I think it applies to all of us, to varying degrees. If it startles even the writer, it could well take an act of God for the reader not to entirely reject it. Youíll be shocked, angry and offended, especially at my exaggerated examples. It is the very exaggeration, however, that was like turning up the volume and caused me to know things that have always been in the background but until then their significance had escaped me.

The Forgotten Side of the Coin
Creatures that sexually reproduce are divinely fitted with in-built courtship behavior, the exact nature of which varies from species to species. In peafowl, for instance, the ritual commences with the peacock enticing the female by a visual display of his gorgeous tail feathers. Presumably, without that visual display no peahen would ever be in tears over an unwanted pregnancy. Although humans can override their natural tendencies, we, too, have inbuilt courtship patterns that lead to pregnancy. Essentially, it goes like this. The female, consciously or unconsciously, uses her physical appearance to sexually entice the male. The aroused male moves closer. Almost instinctively, his hands begin to wander over the femaleís body. Skillfully, though almost unconsciously, he uses touch (kissing, stroking, and so on) to gently break down every trace of the femaleís resistance to full intimacy.

Discussions of the morality of dating behavior rightly consider the male use of touch to entice, and yet many overlook the female contribution Ė her unique power to use her physical appearance to set the temperature of a date. So letís lift the lid on this significant, forgotten factor.

If Muslim societies pressure women to hide their sexuality, decadent western societies pressure women to flaunt their sexuality. The pressure is so immense that the average woman is made to feel ashamed to be seen in public unless she tarts herself up more than even prostitutes do in most other societies. The very suggestion that we might do this offends us, and yet that is how observers from other cultures often view us. Are they wrong, or are we too close to see clearly? Should we stop to wonder why it is that even in church services in the west, women typically expose more flesh than their male counterparts? Is it because, unlike men, women are cruelly pressured by the world to feel great shame and embarrassment if they do not display and visually enhance their bodies to look like sex objects? Godly women seem forced to end up with some sort of uneasy compromise between flaunting their bodies and full modesty. If you are a woman, your response to this pressure is a personal matter, although, of course, your decision will affect everyone who sees you, particularly a close male friend.

[Also See Should Christian Women Dress In A Sexually Provocative Manner?  
And Modesty Matters]

Please remember that throughout this series of web page Iím not interested in pushing my view, but only in jolting you into prayerfully re-examining issues, rather than mindlessly following the mob. Iím no expert; God is. Simply ask him if there is a grain of truth in any of the mad things I say, and whether, in his eyes, you are already perfectly on course. Where your prayerful exploration takes you is between you and your Lord.

In fact, would you mind if we prayed right now?

Father, You tell us:

     Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of Godís mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God Ė this is your spiritual act of worship. (2) Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is Ė his good, pleasing and perfect will. [Romans 12:1]

From the moment of my birth right through to this present moment, everything I have ever seen or heard has either been the world, or been influenced by the world, or, even if it is entirely from you, has possibly been distorted by me interpreting it from a mindset that has been affected by the world. Like everyone else, I have been unavoidably brainwashed by the world to the point where I cannot possibly trust my judgment on anything. As you say:

     The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? [Jeremiah 17:9]

     There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. [Proverbs 14:12]

     My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. [1  Corinthians 4:4]

     . . . What is highly valued among men is detestable in Godís sight. [Luke 16:15]

I donít even know what things about the world I must avoid conforming to. Surely there must be things about the world Ė such as most of technology Ė that are morally neutral. And yet there could just as easily be things that I Ė and most other Christians Ė unthinkingly accept that are ungodly or unwise. Even Satan himself, the ultimate in evil, is the Deceiver who masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).

This is an impossible mess that throws me entirely upon your mercy to open my eyes. It seems inevitable that I would be biased against learning the truth about worldliness because there must be much about the world that to me feels cozy, and much about going against the world that would make me feel embarrassed and a freak. No wonder you preface the Scripture about not conforming to the world by telling me to make myself a living sacrifice. This is going to be hard. I shrink from pain. I therefore plead with you to force my eyes open to what things of the world I must no longer conform to. I ask you to break worldly brainwashing that Iíve been subjected to since birth. And yet you ask me to no longer be conformed and to renew my own mind. Clearly, there must be much that you expect me to do to participate in this vital process.

Grantley, the author of this webpage, could be just as influenced by the world or by a religious spirit as me. You alone have the purity and objectivity and intellectual power to discern. So I look to you to open my eyes as I read this webpage.

When an average Christian woman in western society tells herself she just wants to look nice, she seldom realizes that she is actually making herself as sexually irresistible as she dare Ėjust how much she dares, of course, depends on her. How conscious are we that by following normal western dress standards, women end up wearing clothes that are ingeniously designed to sexually tantalize a man? For instance, what in the west is typically feminine clothing is cleverly designed to make it unpredictable just how much more will be exposed when a woman bends or sits or the wind blows. Men donít know what flash of flesh they will miss if they take their eyes of her for a moment. It is almost as if a woman is giving a continual, partial striptease, stirring within a man a yearning to remove her clothes. If a worldly woman has no intention of actually letting anyone remove her clothing, it adds an exhilarating feeling of power to the buzz she gets out of thinking herself sexually alluring. Worldly women who hypocritically think themselves more moral than nudists because they Ďleave something to the imagination,í typically dress so as to provoke men into letting their imagination run wild. Sometimes their goal is merely to prove themselves to other women, but regardless of motivation, they try their hardest to deceive everyone into imagining that they look sexier naked than they really are. Do they, for instance, wear stockings to hide how sexy their legs really look, or to hide blemishes or draw attention to their legs? Are high heels chosen for comfort or to make the ankles look slimmer and hence the legs look sexier than they really are? (In fact, some think that by changing the posture and walk, high heels make the entire body more sensuous.)

[Also See Should Christian Women Dress In A Sexually Provocative Manner?  
And Modesty Matters]

If a worldly woman thinks herself attractive, even when she covers up, it is usually to incite lust. If she wears slacks when she dresses up, it is usually so that she can show off her buttocks. If she wears a sweater with a high neckline, her choice is usually tight enough to emphasize her breasts. And innocent girls mindlessly follow.

Although I am vehemently opposed to nudity outside marriage, nudists have a strong case in arguing that (especially after a few minutes) full nudity is less sexually tantalizing than the way western women typically present themselves. If those who keep their clothes on were truly moral, their goal in dressing would be to give the impression that their naked body has less to offer than it really does. How many western women dress like that?

When sexually aroused women make love, their lips usually redden and become more prominent, their cheeks become flushed, and the pupils of the eyes enlarge. These act as sexual signals that drive a man making love to become still more passionate. It is no coincidence that modern facial makeup mimics sexual arousal.

Letís have some fun as we explore this subject. Donít take me too seriously; just keep your ear tuned to the Lord in case something initiates a thought that the Lord wants you to pursue. When a woman dresses modestly, a date is not so dangerously hot. If she covered her hair, and wore no makeup or perfume, the temperature would lower still further. If she didnít have a bath for a week and looked like an apprentice grease monkey about to do an oil change on her tenth car for the day, the temperature would go down even more. If she wore a baggy gorilla suit and mask, and a few slightly smelly fish strung around her neck, the temperature would be so low that the fish would freshen up. Even a nun would be proud of the manís self-control.

By now you know Iím am fruitloop, but I have this theory Ė and Iím sticking to it Ė that few women who have rolled in fresh manure on the way to a date have ever come home pregnant. Am I right, or am I right?

Seriously, if just a dab of doggie poo behind the ear could keep a man in check, then, as ridiculous as it sounds, could something as minor as a dab of makeup in many cases have been a key factor in precipitating a chain of events that has ended in lifelong regret? It all has to start somewhere. If there is any truth in this, it in no way lowers male guilt. Iím just wondering whether there are factors that most of us have underestimated.

Women try their hardest to appeal to men by their clothing, hairdos, makeup and perfume, and then seem to forget that it actually works. The visual side of sex is often as significant to men as foreplay is to women. So let me speak directly to women for a moment. When you try to make yourself look nice you are probably very conscious that the result is far from being the sexiest sight on the planet, and even far from the sexiest you could make yourself look. This, understandably, is likely to lull you into thinking that prettying yourself up has only a minor affect in stirring within your male friend a craving to do morally unacceptable things to you, or at least drive him to commence a chain of events that could get dangerously out of hand. What makes your physical appearance critical, however, is that your male friend knows that other women who drape and paint their bodies to tease him sexually would most likely resist his attempts to caress them. If he thinks he has a better chance of acceptance from you than from strangers, then the way you present yourself will influence his behavior more than how alluring other women make themselves.

There is a significant sidelight to this that I Ė by education a student of human behavior Ė find fascinating. When women think they look attractive, they are usually more sexually responsive. Or, looked at another way, the more women feel they have succeeded in making themselves look nice, the more vulnerable to temptation they are. So, surprisingly, the more a woman enhances her looks, the harder it is not only for her date, but also for herself, to exercise self-control.

Iíll try an analogy that might seal for you the significance of what a woman does without even touching a man. If a person were desperately trying to diet, it would be cruel to waft delicious food under his nose. The more tasty the food looks and smells, the more pressure his self-control is under. If it is merely a picture in a cookbook or seen through the window of a strangerís house, the extent to which food is made to look mouth-watering will affect him, but if he canít get his hands on the food, he wonít end up eating it. It is how tempting the food looks that is right under his nose that is most likely to break down his self-imposed restrictions. If delicious food were put through a blender to look like baby food, and somehow the food had no aroma, it would still be just as tasty, but you would have a better chance of not letting yourself down by overindulging.

If I were dating a woman, the more I felt drawn to her, the more Iíd prefer to make my life less torturous by restricting most of our contact to phone, and when Iím with her Iíd prefer her to look as unattractive as possible. Maybe she could wear a scarf and thick rimmed glasses, no make up and something like a shapeless trench coat covering jeans and high-necked top. ĎIn your dreams!í every woman screams. Oh, well, at least with dreams like that I wonít wake up with a smoldering pillowslip. If cupid were really working overtime, my long-suffering, soon-to-give-up-in-disgust friend could add to her arsenal of cupid repellents by smearing herself with foul smelling gel such as those rather old-fashioned preparations intended to relieve muscle aches or for nasal decongestion. I know what you think about me, but I assure you Iím so sane that the psychiatric nurse says Iíll soon be able to have visitors.

Oh, dear! This was going to be such a serious webpage. Now look whatís happened! Hopefully rather than dismissing my ridiculous examples, they have rammed home to you how critical a womanís grooming really is. And a manís appearance isnít totally irrelevant either. In fact, it could play a bigger role than many of us realize. (With any luck, someone might mistakenly think thatís why I look like something the last high tide washed up.)

What a woman does with her face has so subtle an effect compared to what she does with her breasts that men can be excused for thinking it irrelevant. One of greatest dangers of grooming, however, is precisely that it seems insignificant. It seduces without setting off alarm bells. A weakling who slips under a tripwire can do more damage than a fearsome brute that triggers the intruder alarm. Such seemingly inconsequential things as how kissable the lips are made to look, how flawless the complexion, how big the eyes, how alluring the hair, and how inviting the perfume, can contribute to how out of control things end up. Surprisingly, it can be just as significant as how short the dress and how plunging the neckline. As you know, there is more to determining whether a woman looks attractive than her hemline and cleavage.

Obviously, each couple must come to their own decision before God as to what extremes they will go in order to calm things down. Understandably, single women want to look their prettiest when they are with their special man, and yet if they must pretty themselves it would be better for them to do it for complete strangers and to be their plainest for those they feel most passionate about. If this sounds strange, it not as weird as the fact that soon after marriage women typically slip into putting more effort into their appearance when they are with strangers than when alone with the one person on the planet whose passion they have a legitimate right to stir up. The serious problem with lowering sexual tension by toning down oneís appearance is that it is most embarrassing for women to be seen in public looking less seductive than they are capable of (and some men want to boost their own ego by being seen with a sexy woman). Ironically, if I could persuade a woman to look more like Iíd prefer her to look before marriage, probably one of the places where I would most want to avoid seeing her is in church because that is a place where women are likely to feel pressured to dress up and wear makeup. A further complicating factor is that many women are genuinely scared that God wonít give them a husband unless they lower themselves to using their bodies as bait. Do women who have used their looks to catch a man ever wonder how come they have landed husbands who canít keep their eyes off other sexy sights, or who prefer women as young as they were (or tried to look) when they first attracted their men? If they canít trust God in the selection of a husband, they canít blame him for the result.

Itís not for me to lay down rules, Of necessity, however, every couple needs to establish their own rules. Limits must be soberly and prayerfully determined and set in concrete ahead of time. To leave it to spur-of-the-moment feelings to influence where we draw the line is too foolish to contemplate.

The tragedy is that we only have to let ourselves down once and it is like breaking down a safety barrier than can never be repaired. It is forever harder not to again go careering over the edge at the same point. We can only erect another barrier still further from the edge but it will always be weaker than the original safety barrier. That entire area is less safe than before. What we could previously get away with will now be too dangerous.

Itís a fact of life that we each set boundaries. Especially in the early stages of a relationship, however, we are nervous about spelling them out to our friend. We hope he/she is a mind reader or miraculously happens to think exactly like us. Thatís about as unlikely as it is that we both had identical dreams last night. We are all built differently. Honorable men who wouldnít dare touch their girlfriendís breasts might be alarmed to learn that certain women are even more aroused by having their earlobes kissed. And there are women who would be shocked to learn that touching some menís nipples is as sexually dangerous as could ever be the case with a womanís nipples. Human variability is so pronounced that no matter how many partners our friend has had, there are probably some aspects of our sexuality that our friend has never before encountered. This makes it so dangerous to clam up about our personal vulnerabilities, vainly hoping that our friend understands our uniqueness or stumbles upon the discovery before too much damage is done.

If we donít tell our friend ahead of time exactly where we draw the line, we lose the advantage of having our friendís support in maintaining those standards. Keeping secret the precise location of your carefully erected safety rails means your friend is never sure whether you are transgressing your personal standards. This renders us less motivated not to let ourselves down in the heat of the moment. Another concern is that unless it is openly discussed, your friend might mistakenly assume that you feel coldly towards him/her, when it is simply where you would draw the line with any person, no matter how deep your feelings.

We need to get it not only into our heads, but deep into our hearts, that the standards one sets reflect oneís morality, not oneís weakness, nor oneís passion or commitment to the relationship. If your friend surrenders to your seductive wiles by lowering his/her standards, it proves not what a good lover you are, but how low you have stooped. No matter how minor the infringement, by trespassing his/her boundaries, you have not only abused the person you claim to respect, you have seared that personís conscience. Spiritually, the sin seduction is even worse than forced sex because seduction makes its victim a willing partner in sin. ĎBut what we did wasnít sin!í you protest. Scripture is clear that if a person yields to what his/she regards as sin, then in Godís eyes it is sin. If you think something is wrong and do it, how can you be innocent in the eyes of the One who sees your heart? (This principle is expounded in Romans 14 and Corinthians 8). For your friend to lower his/her standards for your sake is proof not of your friendís love, but only of his/her weak self-control and of your ability to act like the devil. There are no winners when that happens.

We know we should talk these things over but it is so hard when we are tentatively getting to know someone. The ability to discuss embarrassing matters is a vital key to a good marriage and to great sex within that marriage. Right now is the perfect time to develop communication skills that will enrich you for the rest of your life. Itís scary, but the benefits are immense.

A perfect way to broach this awkward subject is to share this entire webpage with your friend. Doing so doesnít necessarily mean you are getting serious about each other. Itís helpful and enlightening to learn how different Christians feel about these matters, and it assists us in developing our own standards. There is no need for any other motives. Maybe you could read the webpages out loud to your friend, with a pause between paragraphs to allow the opportunity for discussion. This would be particularly helpful if your friend is not a great reader.

The Nitty-Gritty
Iím about to give some statements you might like to ponder. You are unique and can have a personal relationship with God, so Iím unconcerned about whether you accept, reject or modify these statements. They are not necessarily even the standards I would apply to myself. They are simply your opportunity to begin exploring your heart, your friendís heart and Godís heart. My longing is only that you use these statements as a launching pad for prayer and for discussion with your friend until you can say, ďĎIt seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to usí ( Acts 15:28) that my friend and I should act this way.

Discuss with your friend your reaction to each of the following. To what extent do the statements need modification to express exactly how you feel before God that you should act?

While we remain unmarried:

    We should commit ourselves to doing nothing we wouldnít do in front of our parents or our pastor.

    The man should not see uncovered nor touch over clothing any part of his girlfriend that would be covered by if a woman were wearing a very modest bikini. Nor should he touch her upper thighs.

    The man should not touch the bare skin of any part of his girlfriendís body that would be covered by a one piece bathing costume, nor the thighs or armpits.

    The man should not touch bare skin between the chin and knees nor the inner part of the arm above the elbow.

    The woman should not wear tight clothes, dress in any way that emphasizes her breasts, shows cleavage, or shows off her behind.

When we are together, the woman will try to conceal/tone down her beauty. Discuss ways of doing this. We will endeavor never to be completely alone together. (Phone calls might be a great way to have long, intimate chats. Some libraries, restaurants, parks, public events, and so on, allow privacy of conversation without being entirely concealed. Other possibilities include being in a room alone with an open door through which someone might enter at any time, or being in a car alone on your way to a destination at which you will be missed if you were delayed.)

Points for discussion:
Talk over with each other your feelings about tongue kissing (French kissing) before marriage.

Over the time you have been close friends, what fluctuations have you noticed in your private and shared prayer lives?

Helpful Suggestions
To one or both of you, some rules you set may seem very strict or unworkable. You might therefore prefer to leave them open for re-consideration after a trial period or perhaps each month. Since something might suddenly prove unexpectedly arousing, you should agree that either of you can instantly raise standards higher, but agree never to lower standards in the heat of the moment. If anything ever required a cool head and a prayerful heart, it is in establishing or modifying your personal set of guidelines and boundaries.

If you have a fear of intimacy that could possibly hinder you in marriage, donít hide behind these standards. You need to discuss possible difficulties openly if the relationship is looking as if it might lead to marriage.

Never resort to emotional blackmail such as:

    ĎIf you loved me you would lower your standards.í

    ĎIíll be forced to leave you if you donít lower your standards.í

    ĎI canít sleep because I so desperately need you to lower your standards.í

    ĎSo and so does it.í

In relation to this last complaint, remember that, given the number of Christians who sin and do their utmost to keep their shame secret, arguments about what other unmarried couples seem to get away with, hold little weight. Christians who freely confess their pre-conversion sins typically go deathly quiet about their post-conversion falls. And no one knows what their liberties are doing to their thought life and to Godís breaking heart. You might also be blessed with a higher libido than them.

It feels like an act of cruelty to know that oneís loved one in craving physical contact and not give it. A problem, however, is that although your friend genuinely believes that just one, relatively safe thing will satisfy him/her, that satisfaction will be short lived and then your friend will crave something a little further down the slippery slide.

Bringing it Together
We have been seeking to determine not what is sin, but how far from the edge a couple must stop to be free from the danger of falling into sin. Because we each have unique pasts, unique bodies, and differing libidos, the point at which we must draw the line will vary from person to person. This means that for most couples, one person could safely go further than the other. This difference can be frustrating, but the person who could safely go further must strongly support his/her friendís boundaries, even though it seems unduly restrictive.

This could demand a massive rethink. You have rightly committed yourself to avoiding intercourse before marriage, but for your friendís sake you might have to avoid very much more than that. If you are unwilling to make this sacrifice for your friendís sake, then you are unworthy of your friend. [Also See Sexual Purity Beyond Legalism]

© Copyright 1996-2000, Grantley Morris. May be freely copied in whole or in part provided: it is not altered; this entire paragraph is included; readers are not charged; if used in a webpage, the new page is significantly different to this one. Many more compassionate, inspiring, sometimes hilarious writings available free online at www.net-burst.net Freely you have received, freely give. For use outside these limits, consult the author.


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