How Far Is Too Far?
True or false . . .
It’s always wrong for two people who are dating to touch each other, under any circumstances.
A couple who refrain from sexual intercourse can still be guilty of fornication.
If a dating couple don’t take sexual liberties, they can’t really be in love.
NO DOUBT you’ve thought about this subject a lot. After all, if you’re dating someone, it can be difficult to know where to draw the line when expressing affection. Let’s address the three true-or-false statements above and see how God’s Word helps us to answer the question, “How far is too far?”
● It’s always wrong for two people who are dating to touch each other, under any circumstances.
False. The Bible doesn’t condemn legitimate, clean expressions of affection. For example, the Bible tells the story of a Shulammite girl and a shepherd boy who were in love. Their courtship was chaste. Yet, they evidently exchanged some displays of affection before they married. (Song of Solomon 1:2; 2:6; 8:5) Today some couples who are seriously contemplating marriage may likewise feel that some chaste expressions of affection are appropriate.*
However, a dating couple must exercise extreme caution. Kissing, embracing, or doing anything that causes arousal can lead to sexual misconduct. It’s all too easy, even for a couple with honorable intentions, to get carried away and engage in sexual immorality.—Colossians 3:5.
● A couple who refrain from sexual intercourse can still be guilty of fornication.
True. The original Greek word translated “fornication” (por·neiʹa) has a broad meaning. It describes all forms of sexual relations outside of marriage and focuses on the misuse of the sexual organs. Thus, fornication includes not only intercourse but also acts such as masturbating another person, as well as engaging in oral sex or anal sex.
Furthermore, the Bible condemns more than just fornication. The apostle Paul wrote: “The works of the flesh are manifest, and they are fornication, uncleanness, loose conduct.” He added: “Those who practice such things will not inherit God’s kingdom.”—Galatians 5:19-21.
What is “uncleanness”? The Greek word covers impurity of any kind, in speech or action. Surely it would be unclean to allow one’s hands to stray under another person’s clothing, to remove another’s clothing, or to caress another’s intimate areas, such as the breasts. In the Bible the caressing of the breasts is associated with the pleasures reserved for married couples.—Proverbs 5:18, 19.
Some youths brazenly defy godly standards. They deliberately go too far, or they greedily seek out numerous partners with whom they can practice sexual uncleanness. Such ones may be guilty of what the apostle Paul called “loose conduct.” The Greek word for “loose conduct” means ‘outrageous acts, excess, insolence, unbridled lust.’ Surely you want to avoid coming to be “past all moral sense” by giving yourself over to “loose conduct to work uncleanness of every sort with greediness.”—Ephesians 4:17-19.
● If a dating couple don’t take sexual liberties, they can’t really be in love.
False. Contrary to what some may think, taking improper sexual liberties doesn’t deepen a relationship. Rather, it tears down mutual respect and trust. Consider Laura’s experience. “One day my boyfriend came over when my mother wasn’t home, supposedly just to watch TV,” she says. “At first he just held my hand. Then all of a sudden, his hands started to wander. I was afraid to tell him to stop; I thought he would get upset and want to leave.”
What do you think? Did Laura’s boyfriend really care for her, or was he just seeking selfish gratification? Is someone who tries to draw you into unclean behavior really showing that he loves you?
When a boy pressures a girl into violating her Christian training and conscience, he breaks God’s law and undermines any claim that he genuinely loves her. Furthermore, a girl who willingly gives in allows herself to be exploited. Worse yet, she has committed an unclean act—perhaps even fornication.*—1 Corinthians 6:9, 10.
Set Clear Boundaries
If you’re dating, how can you avoid inappropriate displays of affection? The wise course is to set clear boundaries in advance. Proverbs 13:10 says: “With those consulting together there is wisdom.” So discuss with your partner what expressions of affection are appropriate. Waiting until you’re in some emotion-charged romantic setting before establishing ground rules is like waiting until your house is on fire before installing an alarm.
Granted, such a sensitive discussion can be difficult—even embarrassing—especially in the early stages of courtship. But establishing boundaries can do much to prevent serious problems from developing later on. Wise boundaries can be like smoke detectors that sound an alarm at the first hint of fire. Furthermore, your ability to communicate in these matters may also serve as an indicator of how much potential the relationship has. In fact, self-control, patience, and unselfishness are the foundation of a satisfying sexual relationship in marriage.—1 Corinthians 7:3, 4.
True, holding to godly standards isn’t easy. But you can trust Jehovah’s advice. After all, at Isaiah 48:17, he describes himself as “the One teaching you to benefit yourself, the One causing you to tread in the way in which you should walk.” Jehovah has your best interests at heart!
READ MORE ABOUT THIS TOPIC IN VOLUME 1, CHAPTER 24
Virginity doesn’t make you abnormal. On the contrary, it’s the wise course. Find out why.
In some parts of the world, public displays of affection between unmarried individuals are considered to be in poor taste and offensive. Christians take care not to behave in a way that could stumble others.—2 Corinthians 6:3.
Of course, the issues raised in this paragraph apply to both genders.
“Love . . . does not behave indecently.”—1 Corinthians 13:4, 5.
Date in groups, or insist on having a chaperone. Avoid risky settings, such as being alone in a parked car or in a house or an apartment.
DID YOU KNOW . . . ?
If you’re engaged, you need to discuss some intimate matters. But explicit talk that’s intended to arouse sexual desire is a form of uncleanness—even if it’s carried on over the phone or via text messaging.
I can avoid being tempted to toy with immorality by ․․․․․
If the person I’m dating tries to pressure me into unclean conduct, I will ․․․․․
What I would like to ask my parent(s) about this subject is ․․․․․
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
● What limits would you set on physical contact with a member of the opposite sex?
● Explain how fornication, uncleanness, and loose conduct differ.
[Blurb on page 46]
“My fiancé and I have read together Bible-based articles on staying chaste. We appreciate the way they have helped us maintain a clean conscience.”—Leticia
[Box on page 44]
What if We’ve Gone Too Far?
What if you’ve fallen into improper conduct? Don’t deceive yourself into thinking you can solve the problem alone. “I’d pray, ‘Help us not to do it again,’” confessed one youth. “Sometimes it would work, but a few times it didn’t.” Therefore, talk to your parents. The Bible also gives this good advice: “Call the older men of the congregation.” (James 5:14) These Christian shepherds can give counsel, advice, and reproof so that you can get your relationship with God back on track.
[Pictures on page 47]
Would you wait until your house caught fire before you installed an alarm? Then don’t wait until your passions are aroused before you establish ground rules for conduct