If you have this question, welcome to a veritable flash mob of people my friend! A huge portion of the questions asked this year related in one way or another to this question, such as “If I have oral sex, am I still a virgin?” or “How far is too far?”
The focus of this question has some good undertones. It shows that you care about how what you do physically in a relationship impacts your relationship with God! If you look deeper, however, you may find that the reason you ask this isn’t too great. It may be because you see Christianity as a legal document instead of a living, breathing relationship with God. The purpose of your asking may not be centered on drawing closer to Him but instead focused on what you can get for yourself without getting into trouble. Think of the weirdness of the question when putting it into real world terms. Imagine your bf/gf came to you and said “Hey, I was secretly thinking about how much I wanted to kiss a person I saw across the room but I didn’t do anything but talk to them. I mean, we talked about how much we wanted to kiss each other, but we didn’t do it. So, where’s the line with them?”
Try asking this question instead of the “how far is too far” question: “What can I do with my girlfriend/boyfriend that will draw us both closer to God?” Can you see how changing the question you are asking to this takes God from being a distant observer waiting to smack you and frown at you when you break your agreement with him into an active role in which he, you, and your bf/gf are doing something awesome together? Also, ask the question of why you are dating in the first place. Check this previous Go-to question/answer to see if you have a healthy, Godly mindset for dating in the first place: https://gotoanswers.wordpress.com/2012/07/25/how-to-date-without-blowing-you-or-someone-elses-face-off/ . Now to answer the question.
Sex has a purpose. Its purpose, like that of all created things, is to reflect aspects of our spiritual relationship with God in a physical way. Sex is a “knowing” of the other person in an intimate way. Through this act in which we participate in unison we experience joy and oneness with the person we partner with.
God’s instructions are that it is only to take place in marriage. The word for breaking this is usually “fornication” and can be found in 1 Cor. 6:9-10. Sex isn’t something we are always advised to do, even when we are married. Its use determines whether it is positive or negative.
From all of this, if we look at the purpose of life and see it is to become the bride of Christ, it tells us that Jesus longs to have a passionate connection to us. It tells us that he wants us to save certain things only for him and not to passionately embrace things of this world. God often uses the imagery of people who run off and worship other things than him as adulterers (in Jeremiah most effectively). Hosea shows that God is willing to take us back into marriage with him despite our infidelity.
So, part of the problem with the “where’s the line” question is that the concept and purpose of sex goes deeper than just mechanically what you are doing. Sex is more than just a physical concept. It is mental, emotional, and spiritual too. They are completely interwoven. In light of this, where the line is for sex includes all of those other elements too in just as important of a way. Jesus had a way of pointing out the deepness of spiritual principles that people had abandoned the heart and purpose of to reduce it simply to what you physically do. Examples of other things that are similar can be found in Matthew 5:21-30.
A good way of explaining how to put this into practice that I’ve seen is that when you do something physical with your gf/bf, are you initiating the act of sex? Are you starting it? You’ll know because certain things will be aroused in you. If your sexual organs are pulsating then your mind and your body are in agreement that sex is starting. If you keep trying to say that by legality in faith you aren’t going too far but your body is telling you the next steps and pushing you to do them then you are probably in the beginning stages of sex. It’s going to be pretty hard to stop yourself and stopping yourself isn’t fun. Then begins the justification game where you just do a little bit more and a little bit more each time you get together. It seems to me that in light of the idea behind sex in the first place (described in the paragraphs above) is being violated.
Intercourse is often the line people consider to be too far. The Bible is somewhat quiet on a mechanical definition of sex (only because asking these questions in the first place is foreign to its mindset which shows we are not fully understanding scriptures message when we ask it) but it should be pointed out that oral sex and fondling are positively mentioned in Song of Solomon for a married couple (and only mentioned positively with married couples in Scripture) and, originally, Jewish culture didn’t allow the reading of that book until the age of 30. Those things may not be intercourse by modern definition but it seems to me from that fact that they are outside the mind of God for us and we should limit even the physical acts we are thinking doing until we have wisdom to deal with them.
The heart of this problem lies with the deception the serpent used in the beginning in Genesis. The serpent tells us like he told Adam and Even God doesn’t want you to have this delicious thing because he doesn’t want you to know or experience certain things for his own selfish reasons. Nothing could be further from the truth. God wants you to have something he created to be used well because it can be tremendously wonderful in your life. It’s misuse – and I know this personally – is devastating. Is there anything out there that messes people up more than sex? How many people in your life have been absolutely wrecked by the misuse of sex (whether they did it or someone affected them by their own misuse)?
I know a lot of you out there have probably already had sex. Please hear this if you are in that place. First, there is no one who is individually pure – not one (Romans 3:23). If you have had pre-marital sex, you are not broken greater than you can be healed in Christ. (Ephs. 4:22-24) His righteousness is what we rely on, not our own. That connection to Christ is what purifies us (1 John 1:7-8). The power of breaking sexual cycles of sin is not in beating yourself up about how impure you are and trying to live by a perfect regiment to stop it (Col. 2:23), it is overcome by living and walking with the Spirit (Gal. 5:16-25). This is not something you do alone. You do it with others. (Gal. 6:2 & Ephs. 4) (Check out this previous Go-to for more on all of this: https://gotoanswers.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/question-does-the-guilt-of-not-waiting-to-have-sex-until-marriage-ever-go-away/) If this is you and you need to your burdens carried, I’m here! Contact me and I will help you.
Love in Christ,