1 Corinthians 7:1-2 “Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “it is good for man not to have sexual relations with a woman. But because of the temptation of sexual immorality each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.”
Since the last post, I discussed about sexual desires among Christians, in this post would like to discuss physical intimacy among Christians. Among the Christian community are different views how just what type of physical affection is allowed in Christian relationships. The popular question just how far is too far?
For almost all Christians, premarital sex is a sin. God designed Sexual intercourse as a pleasurable expression saved for marriage. However, outside of sexual intercourse just what is acceptable among non-married couples. Should Christian couples engage in kissing, light kissing or French kissing, necking, making out, heavy petting etc? For almost all Christians The purity culture has held on the ideal that no kissing until the wedding. Other Christians and churches discourage little physical contact as possible warning the dangers of sexual temptation, from kissing, French kissing, hugging, touching, making out since any of these will lead to sin. The main premise is to keep sexual purity which is in the scripture. Psalm 119:9 “How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to the word.” 1 Timothy 4:12 “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”
The Greek word for purity is “hagneia” verb form of “hagnos” which means undefiled, not contaminated, sinlessness of life. It’s true as Christians, we should strive to remain pure and not just sexual purity, and flee from sinful behavior, although this is not always easy and we will stumble from time to time. When it comes sexually purity, how is that really defined? Christians have different ideas on how to be sexually pure, from no kissing until marriage, to not having sexual thoughts or desires, to only hold hands, etc. To combat, sexual impurity, both the churches and Christian communities have decided to delegate their own various man-made rules on what is acceptable and what isn’t when it comes to physical affection. From no passionate kissing, no French kissing, necking, touching, making out on a couch, being alone together, play. Some churches even goes as far as to police people’s behavior, giving them the rundown on just how much they can do as the relationship grows. The moral behind this that in this sexualized world, Christians need to be told what is best for them as they can be so easily led astray.
After all, we can’t help ourselves as we are so weak that once we become physical, we can easily lose control like sexual beasts. But with so many different ideas from different Christian circles and churches as to what is permissible or not, we had a hard time defining exactly what the boundaries based on biblical principles are. One thing I like to point out his although Christians believe premarital sex is a sin and goes against the bible, the reality is bible doesn’t actually forbid premarital sex. There isn’t a verse that definitely says premarital sex itself is wrong. The bible does have numerous scriptures that speaks against sexual immorality. In 1 Corinthians 7:1-2, the Greek translation for sexual relations or touch is “hapto/haptomai”. These words mean to fasten oneself to, kindle, set on fire, clinging, to light, carnel intercourse with a woman or cohabitation.
Other verses are 1 Corinthians 6:18 “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 “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;.” Ephesians 5:5 “For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” Colossians 3:5 “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Galatians 5:19-21 “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the
It is very clear that sexual immoral behavior is forbidden in the bible but what does the bible exactly mean by “sexual immorality”? The Greek translation is “porneia”. This word means harlotry, prostitution, illicit sexual intercourse and fornication(sexual intercourse between two unmarried people) and idolatry. In the Septuagint usage, the word only refers to prostitution and illicit sex. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word “zanah” is translated as fornication meaning harlotry or having sexual relations outside of a covenant marriage including adultery. The Septuagint(Greek translation) of the Old Testament, fornication is translated as porneia. There are some more progressive Christians and churches who argue against the word porneia including fornication at all. Their argument is that porneia only included prostitution since during Ancient times there were Pagan temple prostitutes and adultery on the woman’s part since women were considered property and men could have more than one wife and take concubines. In 1 Corinthians 6:9 the word Greek word for fornicator is “pornos” which means male prostitutes.
Yet these progressive Christians who don’t condemn premarital sex also use biblical scriptures to support their reasoning including Exodus 22:16-17 “If a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed and lies with her, he shall give the bride-price for her and make her his wife. If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the bride-price for virgins. A similar verse is found in Deuteronomy 22:28-29 “If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days”. This is considered proof by some that premarital sex is allowed as it was allowed in the Old Testament of the bible. However, others view Deuteronomy 22:28-29 referring to rape and the consequences of the man who raped a woman. Then there is the story of Jacob and his marriages to two sisters Leah and Rachel in Genesis 29:16-30 which describes him having sexual relations first Leah, then Rachel in exchanged for working for their father his uncle Laban.
None of these verses are actual proof that bible doesn’t condemn premarital sex. In fact, the first two verses are actually a consequence for the man who has sex with a woman, as the custom was for a man to ask for her father’s permission to marry his daughter offering a bride-price, then take her as his wife. However, since he didn’t he is has no choice but to pay a bride price to the father and take her as his wife, and even if the father refuses to allow his daughter marry the man, the man is still obliged to pay a bride-price anyway for he has defiled her. Also, some scholars claim under Ancient Jewish law if couple had sexual intercourse they were considered married or the man had shamed the woman. Another factor in Ancient Israel, is that men could take more than one wife or take slave women as concubines. What was considered adultery was when a married or betrothed woman had sexual relations with a man. However, in the New Testament, in the Greco-Roman society polygamy was condemned although it was still practiced by the Jewish people. In 1 Timothy 3:2, Paul declares a church elder has to be a husband of only one wife. Paul speaks numerous times against any sexual immorality(porneia) even declaring a sexual union as becoming one flesh. 1 Corinthians 6: 16 “Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.”
This is mentioned again in Genesis 2:24 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” which repeated in Ephesians 5:31. The “one flesh” is the sexual union between the husband and wife which bonds them beyond just physically but spiritually and emotionally. Paul is condemning the sexual union to a prostitute since such a union should be sacred preserved between a husband and wife not cheapened with a prostitute. In 1 Corinthians 7:1-2, the Greek city of
In Greek translation the word fornication means illicit(forbidden) sexual relations between people. In that time period of Paul’s teachings, sexual relations outside of marriage were forbidden, but in the 21st century today, such behavior has become the norm. Although we have to consider the cultural issues and customs of that era, that doesn’t mean that some standards still doesn’t apply today. Having to consider the verse Genesis 2:24, I’ve decided to concur that a sexual union is preserved in marriage only. I also concur that avoiding sexual immorality is still applies but this meaning goes beyond just fornication, or prostitution, but any sexual deviancy that includes adultery, incest, rape, bestiality(sexual relations with animals) and pedophilia behavior(sexual relations with children). Even in marriage in should include threesomes, orgies and rape. What about other sexual activity such as oral or anal sex? Although these acts aren’t actually considered sex, I personally consider any actual sexual relations between to unmarried people that causes penetration a sexual act. With that being settled, then what exactly is acceptable between non-married couples? I have read in different forums were Christians have different standards of what is appropriate and what isn’t in a relationship.
These standards are from no touching until marriage, no kissing until marriage or unless they plan on getting married or not being alone together at all. I’ve read from teenage girls who follow purity culture author Leslie Ludy berating themselves for kissing their boyfriends because they don’t think they are pure anymore. Also, from a college girl getting in panic because she dared kissed her boyfriend in their car while lying down on the seat although nothing further happened. I also read from Christians chastising others who engaged in kissing, holding hands, hugging and cuddling with their boyfriends/girlfriends insisting that they shouldn’t be doing such things unless they are planning on getting married. Many Christians just don’t seem to know where to draw the line in physical relationship and often seek out advice or validation from others who sometimes give well-meaning but misguided advice. These mentalities have caused more harm than good, causing many Christians to feel fear, shame and guilt over intimacy. Christian therapist and author Dr. Stephen W. Simpson has mentioned counseling young married couples who avoided any intimacy before marriage only to have problems with sexual intimacy after marriage. Then there are couples who do cross the boundaries and engage in sexual intercourse outside of marriage only to be left feeling guilt, shame and even ostracized by their churches, family and friends and peers.
In fact, despite what the churches attitudes about sex, sexual activity is going on in the churches. Many young Christian couples are almost as sexually active as their secular counterparts, mostly due to the peer pressure in the modern sexualized times. The only differences is that Christian couples are more likely to be in serious committed relationships when becoming sexually active than their secular counterparts yet less likely to use protection or go to the doctor to get tested which leads to many unplanned pregnancies. Although I’m aware there needs to be reasonable boundaries on what Christian couples should engage in regarding physical affection going to the other extreme among the purity movement isn’t helpful either. Instead, I think is important for Christians to be aware that sexual and physical intimacy isn’t something to fear. Sexual intimacy is pleasurable and beautiful thing designed by God for marriage which is built on mutual love, emotional connection and commitment. As for physical intimacy that doesn’t involve sexual intercourse, this type of display is not only okay but quite healthy and important as it is just an expression of two people in a relationship who truly care for and are devoted to each other.
Even experts including psychologists say that physical affection including, kissing, holding hands, hugging and cuddling are important in a relationship as they release the feel good and love hormones known as dopamine and oxytocin which in turn decreases stress and lower the blood pressure. Also, couples who engage in many forms of physical affection(minus sex) feel more satisfied in a relationship. As for what is acceptable and what isn’t in physical relationship, the truth is besides saving sex for marriage, there aren’t any biblical rules on what else you are allowed to do in a physical relationship. Even the bible chapter Song of Solomon mentions a physical affection in a romantic relationship between a Shulamite woman and a shepherd boy in verse Song of Solomon 1:2 “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine;”. As for what could lead to sex, anything basically could anything could lead to sex from kissing to being alone together, but that doesn’t mean it will lead to sex. People can have a some will power and self-restraint especially if they understand the boundaries, and the fact people have different sex drives with some being higher and lower than the other does play a role.
What couples decide to do regarding physical affection in a relationship is totally up the couple and what they feel they’re comfortable with and will vary for different couples as each couple is different. The type of physical display will also differ depending on the different stages of that relationship, for example maybe only light kisses on the lips in the beginning of the dating process to more physical affection of holding hands, passionate kissing, embracing, caressing etc in a more serious committed relationship. Of course, if a couple chooses on their own to save their first kiss until their wedding day or at least an engagement ring that is their right and their business as well. There shouldn’t be any type of judgment on what couples do that don’t violate the bible nor should we create legalistic rules on what we should or shouldn’t do based on misinterpreting the bible. However, I will say I personally wouldn’t recommend engaging in heavy petting, foundling each others genitals, breast, or buttocks even though such acts aren’t actually forbidden, they still can be too temping and pushing the boundaries a bit, but in the end it’s the couple’s choice.
Even if a couple does cross the line and engage in sexual intercourse, it doesn’t mean that they should be forever condemned, treated like they committed the ultimate sin, branded to slut-shaming(on the female’s part), any type of shaming or damaged goods. There is room for repentance and forgiveness and understanding as we are all sinners and sometimes we will stumble not out of being immoral but out of weakness.
The main issue is in relationship there should be mutual trust and respect, knowing the boundaries and having a sense of will power while doing what the couple feels is comfortable for them without fear or anxiety over what is appropriate.