Beware of Toying with Sexual Immorality!
GOD’S rules regarding sex are found in his Word, the Bible. It makes clear that sex relations are only for those who are properly married. For single persons to have sex relations is fornication. For married persons to have sex relations with anyone not their mate is adultery. The Bible plainly states: “God will judge fornicators and adulterers,” and that “neither fornicators . . . nor adulterers . . . will inherit God’s kingdom.”—Heb. 13:4; 1 Cor. 6:9, 10.
The Christian standard, however, is much higher than merely avoiding fornication and adultery. It forbids loose conduct and uncleanness as well as outright fornication and adultery. This is based on the principle Jesus stated in his Sermon on the Mount: “I say to you that everyone that keeps on looking at a woman so as to have a passion for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”—Matt. 5:28.
While many acknowledge that fornication and adultery are wrong, they do not always appreciate that even “toying” with sexual immorality is also wrong. But Jesus stated that it is wrong to let oneself become inflamed by continuing to look at the features of another who is not one’s marriage partner and doing so with an impure motive. It is just as wrong to engage in any other conduct that has the same result.
Why is toying with sexual immorality wrong and something to be avoided by Christians? First of all, it violates God’s expressed commands. This results in his displeasure, if not also a defamation of his holy name. So his Word counsels: “Deaden, therefore, your body members that are upon the earth as respects fornication, uncleanness, sexual appetite, hurtful desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Yes, all such “works of the flesh” are a form of idolatry and come in the same category as ancient phallic, or sex, worship.—Col. 3:5; Gal. 5:19-21.
Secondly, by toying with sexual immorality one might injure others, mentally, physically and spiritually. It is charged with emotion, especially for the woman involved. It can cause great grief and unsettling of mind and heart. Further, by failing to make straight paths for one’s feet one may well cause others to be led into immoral practices and be turned out of the way that leads to everlasting life. It can lead to excommunication from the Christian congregation, and everlasting destruction by God.
Toying with sexual immorality easily leads to fornication, which can result in hideous venereal diseases and life-long regrets, as in the case of having illegitimate offspring. It is not uncommon. Thus in 1962 there were 8,835 illegitimate births in London, England, which was one-seventh of all the births recorded in that city for the entire year! And concerning venereal disease, one American authority stated: “Venereal disease is today a serious and worsening problem threatening to sweep the [United States] like a forest fire.”
WHAT IS “TOYING” WITH SEXUAL IMMORALITY?
What is meant by “toying” with sexual immorality? By this we do not mean fornication or adultery, because these things are not “toying” with immorality. “Toying” with sexual immorality indicates that one may not at first intend to engage deliberately in fornication or adultery, but, knowingly or unknowingly, one is engaging in activity that easily leads to such. The point to keep in mind is that toying with immorality places one on the road to immorality, and it cannot always be stopped.
Now, then, what are some of the actions that amount to loose conduct or toying with sexual immorality without its actually being fornication or adultery?
One such would be for a married person to flirt with a member of the opposite sex who is not his mate. This can serve no good purpose. It is usually indulged in either to build up one’s ego or for the sexual stimulation it brings. It is looking upon another with the wrong motive. If continued to its logical consequence, it would result in adultery.
Putting your arms affectionately around persons of the opposite sex who are not your husband, wife or close relatives is also toying with immorality. A person can express friendliness without going to this extent. While it may seem very innocent at first, such acts can lead and have led to fornication and adultery, resulting in some being cut off from the Christian congregation. Incidentally, the fact that persons may be married does not mean that they can take more liberties in this regard than single persons. Just as often, if not more often, it is married persons who get into difficulty by doing such things with those not their mates.
Telling obscene jokes is toying with sexual immorality. It begins to break down high Christian standards. The implication is that such things are not so bad if Christians can joke about them, and, after all, see how many people laughed! But is it clean or right? No! It leads in the wrong direction, in the direction of immorality, polluting one’s thinking.—Eph. 5:3, 4.
Dancing with one who is another’s marriage mate in such a way that you feel sexually aroused or stimulated is also toying with sexual immorality. Actually, there is no justification for a Christian to dance in close contact with another’s marriage mate. Think of it this way. Would you like it if someone came to your home and put his arms around your wife for five or ten minutes out of every hour during the evening, just sitting, or standing in the middle of the room, hugging your wife? Why, of course you would not like it! Then why should it be justified just because music is playing or it is done in the name of dancing? It is not justified and should be avoided by Christians. There are other types of dancing that do not require close proximity of partners, a veritable embrace; dances such as square dances, or other group dances, or those performed by persons of the same sex, avoid this pitfall. Of course, even where a dance is performed by one person or persons of the same sex, if it is suggestive or immoral, obviously it is not for Christians.
Reading literature or looking at pictures that arouse you sexually is toying with immorality. Attending movies and watching television or stage shows that highlight immorality fall into the same category, as they fill one’s mind with unclean thoughts.
Single persons that are keeping company with one of the opposite sex should beware of toying with immorality. The only valid reason for a Christian to keep constant company with one of the opposite sex is to cultivate an honorable association that will ultimately lead to marriage. But “romantic” walks into secluded places are dangerous, because your being alone with one of the opposite sex for extended periods of time may result in your being aroused to the point where “necking” or “petting” are indulged in. Impassioned, sexually arousing kissing on the part of single persons, even if they are engaged to be married, is improper because it arouses feelings that cannot be followed by sexual intercourse without its being fornication. It is better to avoid the situation that leaves one open to sexual immorality.
Dating men or women who are not dedicated to God can quickly lead to toying with immorality. To begin with, a Christian should not be cultivating close association with a worldly person. A person who is not guided by God’s Word is likely to be infected with the loose code of morality prevalent in the world and is inclined to accept toying with immorality as a matter of course, as something that is acceptable social behavior. But it is not. It is contrary to God’s will.
CONSIDER LOCAL CUSTOMS
Local customs must also be taken into account. If local custom views it as loose conduct for an unmarried boy and an unmarried girl even to visit alone, or to date without an escort, then the custom must be respected. If local custom views it as improper for unmarried persons to hold hands, even in the presence of their parents, then Christians must abide by that custom. If it is wrong for unmarried persons ever to kiss, according to local custom, then the Christian living in that land abides by those standards. While we do not adopt the customs of a land if they violate God’s commandments, at the same time we do not insist on breaking local customs that do not violate Christian conscience.
On the other hand, if local custom permits young people to become acquainted before marriage, there is no objection. But this does not mean it is proper for a Christian to go out with everyone of the opposite sex who will accept an invitation. Furthermore, a Christian woman should rightly assume that if a Christian man continues to seek out her company, then he has intentions of cultivating association that will lead to marriage. And if they continue to keep close company with each other for an extended period of time, the Christian congregation with which they are associated also has every reason to expect that the two have honorable intentions of marriage.
Sometimes young people see motion pictures from other lands. They see “romantic” scenes and want to copy them. But simply because a thing is done in another land does not mean it is right to do it in your land. In certain parts of the earth people wear very little in the way of clothing, but you might be arrested if you tried to do the same where you live. It should also be kept in mind that what is portrayed on the screen does not necessarily represent what is considered moral even in the country where it was produced. It may portray what is done, but it may be what is done by loose-living people!
From the foregoing it is obvious that we must constantly beware of toying with sexual immorality. This is not to say that no one is to be trusted. But modern advertising, television, movies, stage plays and the like pump the mind full of sex so that people are made to think of it more than is healthy. Even a person who wants to do what is right can find that these constant pressures around him push him into doing what is wrong if he does not put up a hard fight for what is right.
The Scriptures counsel us to “hate what is bad.” (Ps. 97:10) Toying with sexual immorality is bad. Avoid it as you would avoid poison that may be very sweet but that can kill. Remember, it is easy to deceive yourself. The fallen inclinations of the heart are like a sick man’s appetite. He often desires most what would increase his hurt, even as a diabetic craves sweets.—Jer. 17:9.
So hatred for what is bad does not come naturally. This hatred for what is bad must be cultivated. How? By filling your mind with proper thoughts. The one place where you can get an inexhaustible supply of right thoughts is in God’s Word, the Bible. This will enable you to “be transformed by making your mind over.” (Rom. 12:2) It will help you to “strip off the old personality with its practices, and clothe yourselves with the new personality, which through accurate knowledge is being made new according to the image of the One who created it.” (Col. 3:9, 10) Yes, the Bible provides what is ‘true, righteous, chaste, lovable, virtuous and praiseworthy.’ (Phil. 4:8) While we are taking in this kind of knowledge we are not dwelling on what is bad. We are building up right desires and right thinking.
Since likes and dislikes are based to a large degree on our experience and environment, we should exercise great caution to keep in the company of those who have respect for God’s righteous requirements. If we stay in the company of persons who make light of morality, in time we will come to think their way. We need the right association of clean-minded Christians.
In particular, guard against “loose conduct.” Avoid all habits that tend to stimulate improper sexual desire, such as the modern practice of teen-agers’ going steady when they cannot hope to marry for years, or of married persons displaying affection for persons of the opposite sex not their mates. Avoid all pornographic literature, whether visual pictures or word pictures. Stay away from all entertainment that highlights unclean themes. Avoid all songs and dancing that are sexually stimulating.
If you are courting, plan to fill up the time you are together with constructive and useful things. Let wholesome things occupy your thoughts, conversation and actions, such as games or sports, reading good literature, especially the Bible, or engaging in the service of God.
Young or old, married or single, all should keep in mind that God sees us at all times. He “is not one to be mocked. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap; because he who is sowing with a view to his flesh will reap corruption from his flesh, but he who is sowing with a view to the spirit will reap everlasting life from the spirit.” (Gal. 6:7, 8) Do God’s will. Guard against reaping corruption by not toying with sexual immorality, and God will bless you with everlasting life in his new order of things!
The law of Jehovah is perfect, bringing back the soul. The reminder of Jehovah is trustworthy, making the inexperienced one wise. The orders from Jehovah are upright, causing the heart to rejoice; the commandment of Jehovah is clean, making the eyes shine. The fear of Jehovah is pure, standing forever.—Ps. 19:7-9.