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Monday, July 20, 2009

Physical Boundaries: How Far is Too Far

I don't usually do this, but when a topic comes up three times in the same day, it leads me to believe it is something I am meant to address. This particular topic: the area of physical touch. Guys and girls, especially teenage guys and girls are always asking. Always pushing the limit. Wanting to see how far they can go. Wanting to know how far is too far. What is the Biblical standard? Where is the line?

Fasten your seat belts, this is going to be a rough ride. Truth is not meant to be soft and cushy. Soft and cushy truth is a truth that is easily manipulated and avoided. Soft and cushy truth isn't truth at all, it is just soft and cushy. Truth has a back bone. Truth has a voice. Truth fights. Truth stands. There is a reason the Bible (Truth) is referred to as a sword, and a two-edged one at that. It gets you coming and going.

If there is one thing I am very passionate about, it is the sanctity of sex. I believe it is good; I believe it is God-given; I believe it is meant for the marriage relationship of one man to one wife. That is all truth, with Biblical basis.

So what's the deal with pushing the limits? Why all the gray areas? Because we are human and we want what we want and are not willing to accept the standard God has given us. That willingness is really all it comes down to. Are we willing to accept the boundaries God has given us? We like to put conditions on guidelines. We are constantly searching for loop holes. How can I bend this rule? How can I avoid this one?

It reminds of something that happened earlier today with one of the girls I babysit. She was hopping around on one leg. When I inquired, she informed me she had jumped off the shed in the backyard. Mind you, this shed is a solid eight feet tall and she is nowhere near half that height. What little idea made her think she could do it? Her brother. He informed her that she could jump off the top of the shed. She did. She got hurt.

Trying to seize a teachable moment I knelt down and asked her who was in charge, her mother or her brother. Her simple response was, "Well, mom wasn't outside then." I countered by saying, "But does your mom want you climbing things that are high up in the air?" Another clever counter-response: "But the wooden playset we had was higher." So, I tried yet again, "Did your mom give you permission to be on the shed?" The response: "Well, see, Miss Jessica, we were already up there and mom came out and told us to get down because we weren't allowed up there. At first I was going to do the right thing and go down the way we came up, but then he told me to jump, so I jumped." She is six, and is already half way through law school.

When it comes to God's standards, we do the same thing. Instead of doing what we know to be right, we are more worried about what exactly is wrong. Especially in the area of physical touch. It seems everyone wants to know how close they can get without crossing the line. In order to establish that, we need a line. That's when things get fuzzy. For one person, the line is at holding hands. For another it is at kissing. There are a lot of lines. To an extent, that's ok. I believe there is room for personal preference and conviction, but I do believe that there is a line for us to see and it is drawn way before the act of sexual intercourse.

In fact, picture yourself standing right next to God. Right next Him. Put a pencil in your hand reach down and draw a circle around you and God. Congratulations, you have found the line. For many of us, we are so far from God that the line is way out there. The further you are from God, the further out your line. In all reality though, the line should be right there. Right next to God. Why? Because God is holy, as is sex. They belong in the same bubble, and guess what. You belong there too.

This is the Scripture reference I site for a standard of physical contact: 1 Thessalonians 4:6 "That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter:..."

Before you all cry that I have taken the verse out of context, let me inform you that the context of sexual purity is exactly where this verse falls. Here is your context: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit.

So, let's set a new standard. Sex is holy. It is good, and get this, God wants us to have it, hence the reason for our sex drive. Do not equate pleasure with permission. This is a common problem. I hear it more than I care to admit.

"Jessica, I think we went too far, but it felt good. It wasn't bad. It was a 'special connection.'"

Let's break this down.

"I think we went too far" if you think that, then you are probably right. Guilt is normally a good indicator of wrongdoing.

"but it felt good" right again! It was made to feel good. It is supposed to feel good. If it didn't you wouldn't be here. However, just because it feels good does not mean it is right.

"It wasn't bad" partially true. It wasn't bad as in the opposite of good. It may not have 'felt' bad, but it was wrong.

"It was a 'special connection'" Right again. That is how our sexuality is designed. Regardless of whether or not you 'go all the way' every step you take toward a bed strengthens the 'connection' you have with each other. It's called hormones.

So, since our feelings are not to be trusted, we have a problem. We can no longer determine when we are in over our heads. We are no longer a good judge of how far is too far. Exactly why God makes His standard very clear.

He basically says, "I called you to be holy, so you need to control your body and use it the way I tell you to."

Our bodies are to be holy. Holy simply means set aside for a purpose. Holiness is a big deal to God. A HUGE deal. If you doubt that, read through the Pentateuch and look at the tabernacle and everything that had to be done to keep the tabernacle holy. Holiness is the crux of who God is. Holiness is the crux of our relationship with Him because if it were not for holiness, there would be no need for Calvary. Tell me, though, how can you be holy while you are snogging with your boyfriend/girlfriend?

Can you be holy while snogging with your spouse? Absolutely. The marriage bed is honorable. I think God gets excited when married people snog. They are enjoying intimacy as He intended. Outside of that context, you are playing with fire, and I doubt that makes Him happy.

On top of all that, we are instructed to watch out for each other. That portion of verse 6 is my battle stand for modesty as well. Too many times I hear, "Well, I can wear whatever I want to, it's his problem if his mind wanders." Wrong. We, as Christians, should be making every attempt to protect the purity of each other. Now, does that mean we walk around in potato sacks? No! But that means you keep covered what you believe God would have you keep covered.

In the area of sexuality and physical touch it means you keep your hands off. It should be noted here, that anything that gets you turned on, or whatever you want to call it is messing your sex drive, no matter how you slice it. I've worked with teenagers who have 'gone too far' without going all the way. Usually to the young lady, it was just innocent. To the young man, it is so much more. So where is the line there? If kissing makes either mind wander, then you don't kiss. If you don't like that, too bad. You can make up for it, once you are married.

Honestly, my advice is to get that line as close to the holy of holies as possible. I tell people to draw it to protect the weakest area. Think of a fortress. A castle. There is a secret tunnel leading into the castle. Your castle is now under attack and you have reason to believe the secret tunnel has been compromised. What do you do?

Well, you board the doors to the tunnel shut. You then barracade them, just in case. Then you lock the door to the room where the tunnel is and barracade that one, maybe even set a trap. Then you position guards in the hallway just in case something gets through all of that.

The same it should be with purity. Your body is a castle. A temple. Something meant to be holy and you are under attack. The devil is well aware of a weakness. A way to snag you. He is after the core of who you are. He is after your sexuality. If he can get you to fall. If he can draw you out, he can take you down.

Too often, instead of bolting, locking and guarding, we run down the tunnel, just out of range of his darts and razz him. Eventually, we fall. I have seen it so many times.

In college, I had a friend who met the man of her dreams. Early on they just talked about sex. Then they started talking about it alot. They started laughing about it. Joking about it. Then, they started snuggling in the lounge. They started to listen to music with sexual undertones. Three years later, I received word of a horrible break up. I'll never forget the message she sent me:

"Jessica, what he didn't tell you is that he broke up with me the morning after he slept with me."

Christian girl. Christian guy. Christian college.

Yet another young lady sent me a story about how she and her boyfriend snuck off campus often. They would drive to a vacant field thinking "Now that we are off-campus the 'no touching rule' doesn't apply." In his truck, they would make out, at night. At first it was innocent. One night, it was no longer. She said it started out making out, then before she knew it she was just mere moments away from giving up her virginity. She came to her senses and called off the whole encounter. Fortunately, he had enough self control to honor her wishes and drive her back to campus, but she could have just as easily been raped.

Christian girl. Christian guy. Christian college.

Know your own weakness and build that boundary strong. You are not invincible. Protect your body. Draw a boundary that you know will stand. Draw it as close to God as possible and know that He will be honored by that, as will your future spouse. It isn't about what feels good. No one is going to tell you it doesn't feel good, but feeling good and honoring God can often be polar opposites.

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