How Far is Too Far: Sexual Integrity for Singles

Bob Parkins

Not many Christians debate God’s instructions against premarital sex. However, there is still not a consensus or a shared understanding regarding what constitutes acceptable physical affection and what is sinful. The Bible uses words like adultery, fornication, lust, and purity, all words that have very clear meanings. Yet many Christian singles, teens, and even parents remain confused. Many Christian singles and teens struggle to maintain sexual purity while abstaining from sexual intercourse, yet many are engaging in sexual acts. They deceive themselves by legalistically reasoning they haven’t violated God’s boundaries because they haven’t technically had sex.

While the Bible does not appear to clarify exactly what other acts for singles are and are not acceptable in God’s eyes, it is very clear about the guidelines we are meant to judge these acts by.

When asked by young couples, ‘how far is too far?’ I generally ask them to search their hearts and examine what their intention and motivation in asking is. Usually a couple who asks ‘how far,’ is also struggling to maintain sexual purity. Those struggling with sexual purity or addictions are in the habit of pushing limits and boundaries. They want to know what is the maximum they can get away with. They look for loopholes in attempts to satisfy the desire for immediate self gratification.

The Bible warns us about being deceived and worshiping idols (Deut 11:16; Exo 20:14), and sex can be an idol to those who struggle to maintain purity. Scripture also tells us that God sees what truly is in our hearts and we will sow what we reap (Gal 6:7). If you have ever asked ‘how far,’ and have patterns of pushing limits, it is likely you are not truly interested in purity and really want to get away with as much physical affection as possible. When you put it that way it seems silly to consider the technicality of sin. If you discover your motive is to selfishly seek your own physical gratification, instead refocus on what is pure (Phi 4:8).

When you flirt with sin, you put yourself in a position to sin. To answer the question more directly, anything that causes you to sin is ‘too far.’ This is probably the best litmus test for determining limits since the Bible doesn’t tell couples specifically how they can show physical affection, at least not in the manner many look for. There are several scriptural examples of expressing affection through treasuring chastity and virtue and abstaining from sexual immorality (Isa 62:5; 2Col 11:2), a counter-cultural perspective in most increasingly permissive/promiscuous societies. Jesus models surrendering personal desires to the Father (Luk 22:42), and encourages us to ask for God’s intervention in maintaining victory over sin in The Lord’s Prayer (Luk 11:4). If you are willfully sustaining a desire that cannot be righteously met, you are deceiving yourself (1Thess 4:3-8).

Determining limits may be a little different for different couples, but be cautioned against any propensity to justify pushing limits. If you get excited to the point that you struggle with lustful thoughts or fantasies from kissing, or if you have difficulty respecting boundaries (yours or hers), you may not be able to handle more. Consider then abstaining from kissing or other applicable acts. Some may not struggle with kissing and will need to set limits accordingly. I suggest also abstaining from any physical activity or show of affection that you are not comfortable doing in front of her father. There are several genuine and appropriate displays of affection that pass this test.

It is important that couples talk about setting physical limits early in their relationship. We live in a backwards culture where single men often push women to/beyond their sexual limit. This is not what God intends or requires of us in marriage, so it certainly cannot be condoned in dating. Men are to cherish and protect their wives, not take advantage of them for their own pleasure (Eph 5:25-28; Col 3:19). Just as a father is to protect the innocence of his daughter, so are we to protect and respect any woman we are dating. Sexual desire for her is not bad, but respecting her virtue means protecting her from these desires (yours or her).

Men, it is up to you to initiate this conversation and establish boundaries. This may be the very first act you exhibit of spiritual leadership in a budding relationship. Any potential spouse who is worth spending your life with will respect your integrity because they will feel safe and cherished. Two scripture verses that are helpful in maintaining focus on purity are:

– (2Ti 2:22) Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

– (Phi 4:8) Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Be encouraged by the peace God promises those that live pure and virtuous lives

For more help in the battle for purity, see Every Man’s Battle.

Understanding Your Wife’s Heart: Part 1

New Life Ministries

Your wife can be your ‘comrade in arms’ if she understands the battle for sexual purity and the road you have chosen for sexual integrity. Because male sexual impurity can be unsettling, even shocking, to women, we’ve included this section of interviews with women regarding Every Man’s Battle to give you awareness of how to relate better to your wife and communicate with her in your struggle to be and stay free. Be aware there’s a natural tug-of-war in the hearts of women between pity and disgust, between mercy and judgment.

Cathy: ‘I did not know the depth that men would go and the risk they would take to satisfy their desires. I was unaware of how intense these temptations are and how much defense a man must muster to avoid stepping over God’s boundaries.’

Fawn: ‘I was surprised to learn that Christian men have this problem even after they’re married. I found the intensity of the problem to be shocking.’

Andrea: (From talking with her father and different guys she dated, she knew men were easily attracted visually. But she never realized the major extent of their struggle until she met her future husband.) ‘At the time, he was my closest friend in the youth group, but we were not romantically inclined. He did feel safe enough with me to share his problem with pornography. It was quite a battle for him, as he had first been exposed to it in third grade. I was a little amazed by it all because, although I was attracted to guys by their looks during my dating years, the physical attraction I felt was nothing compared to what a man feels when looking at a woman.’

 Brenda: ”It affects my trust in men, knowing that pastors and deacons could have this problem. I don’t like it that men lustfully take advantage of women in their thoughts, although I realize that women can be largely to blame because of what they wear. It’s at least some comfort to know that many men have this problem.’

How much mercy can be found in a woman’s heart when she looks upon this problem? Not surprisingly, it depends upon her husband’s situation.

Ellen: After hearing about this, I was surprised that married men would have so much trouble. I feel very sorry for them. When I asked my own husband about it, he was honest with me that he had some struggles, and at first I was hurt. Then I just felt thankful that he would share with me. He hasn’t had a major problem in this area, for which I’m thankful.’

Cathy: ‘My husband is regularly bombarded with sexy images, and I was pleased with his honesty regarding that. I want to know the temptation he faces. It will only help me be more sympathetic to his plight. I didn’t feel betrayed because he’s proven faithful in this battle. Other women are not so lucky.’

What about women whose husbands have been losing big in the battle?

Deena: ‘When my husband and I talked about this, he was honest and I was very angry with him. I was hurt. I felt deeply betrayed because I’d been dieting and working out to keep my weight down so that I would always look nice to him. I couldn’t figure out why he still needed to look at other women.’

Women told us that they struggle between pity and anger. Their feelings may ebb and flow with the tide of their husband’s battle. Encourage your wife to pray for you.

For more help on this subject see, Every Man’s Battle.
If you have already attended Every Man’s Battle, bless your wife by attending our couples program at our next New Life Weekend.

Understanding Your Wife’s Heart: Part 3

New Life Ministries

Your wife can be your ‘comrade in arms’ if she understands the battle for sexual purity and the road you have chosen for sexual integrity. Because male sexual impurity can be unsettling, even shocking, to women, we’ve included this section of interviews with women regarding Every Man’s Battle to give you awareness of how to relate better to your wife and communicate with her in your struggle to be and stay free. Be aware there’s a natural tug-of-war in the hearts of women between pity and disgust, between mercy and judgment.

As a woman, you’ve no doubt become aware of how much men and women differ sexually. In relation to your own husband, understanding the seventy-two hour cycle can help you keep him satisfied. Males have a strong, regular sex drive. The human male, because of sperm production and other factors, naturally desires sexual release about every forty-eight to seventy-two hours. Upon hearing this, one young wife blurted out, ‘Oh, what a cross to bear!’ Many women, who especially in early married life rarely have a matching level of desire, stand in amazement at how regularly their husbands desire sexual intercourse. But that’s the way men are built.

Ellen: ‘My husband’s purity is extremely important to me, so I try to meet his needs so that he goes out each day with his cup full. During the earlier years, with much energy into child-care and with my monthly cycle, it was a lot more difficult for me to do that. There weren’t too many ‘ideal times’ when everything was just right. But that’s life, and I did it anyway.’

So there’s a place for the ‘quickie.’ While a long-term diet of drive-by sex is unhealthy, it certainly has a place in defusing the power of the seventy-two-hour temptation cycle. Sometimes you just don’t have the time or energy for the full package, but if you care about his purity, you can find just enough energy to get him by.

In terms of your attire around the house, remember that his ignition is visual. You can get his motor running just changing shirts in his presence.

Ellen: ‘For my husband’s sake, I try not to undress in front of him unless I’m ready for action!’

When you want your husband to watch romantic videos with you, be especially sensitive to how movies with vivid love scenes will subject him to visual sensuality. Of course you want the two of you to watch the movie together, but give him room to say no for the sake of his sexual integrity.

Finally, as you struggle with your emotions to fully understand your husband’s problem and its effects on your marriage, realize that something just as harmful to marriage as sexual sin is the sin of comparison. When men look at sensual things, it can make them less satisfied with their wives. Likewise when women fantasize about the perfect husband, it can make them less satisfied with the mate God has given them.

Women are susceptible to this in different ways. Some fall prey to comparing their now stodgy husband to the ‘hunk’ they once knew in college. For others, the dissatisfaction comes from dreaming of a fling to a far-off island, or reading a romance novel and responding with ‘if only’ feelings that lead only to dissatisfaction.

Andrea: ‘The potential big downfall for me would be fantasizing about the ‘perfect husband,’ especially during trying times in our marriage. This makes me feel dissatisfied with him, and I want more from him than I should.’

Francis: ‘We women can fall short in our thought lives. We compare our husbands with other women’s husbands, but not necessarily in the physical or sexual arenas. We do it spiritually, comparing whose husband is a better spiritual leader, or just more spiritual in general. We also compare our lives with other women’s lives ‘ like who has it easier, and who does and doesn’t have to work outside the home. That also can cause dissatisfaction with our husbands.’

After attending Every Man’s Battle, we strongly encourage you to attend our marriage program at our New Life Weekend
This weekend will help your marriage to heal from the wounds of
impurity and will especially help your wife with questions that she
still may have.