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How far is “too far”?


How far is “too far” in a relationship that’s growing?—Together4Eva, Kenya

Shayna Answers:

Dear Together4Eva, It's always difficult for me to answer this question, because I never want to give you or anyone else the impression that a particular level of physical intimacy is “OK” or “the right place to stop.”

No matter what I say, it's really up to you to set your own physical boundaries, based on your convictions and what you need to do to avoid temptation.

The Bible is very specific about the measures we should take to keep our bodies pure in our relationships. First Corinthians 6:20 says to “honor God with your body.” Verse 18 says that whoever “sins sexually sins against his own body.” Galatians 5:19 lists “sexual immorality” as an act “of the sinful nature.” And Romans 12:1 urges us to offer our bodies as “living sacrifices” as a “spiritual act of worship.”

As for what exactly defines “sexual immorality,” Hebrews 13:4 says, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” In other words, sex isn’t something that God considers dirty or wrong. It is a blessing within the context of marriage. The way you word your question—“relationship that's growing”—makes it sound like you may be wanting to justify what you want to do, but you know what you shouldn't do. Especially if you've been in this relationship for a while, I'm sure that your hormones are threatening to overtake your spiritual convictions. If this is the case, let me assure you that you aren't the first couple to have to deal with this! First Corinthians 10:13 tells us that “no temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.”

The first thing that you should do is establish some physical boundaries. Verbalize these to your significant other, and make sure that he/she is on the same page with you. The act of saying your convictions out loud to each other will help you both stick to them. It will also help you be accountable to each other for your actions.

You may also want to consider getting an accountability partner, someone you can talk to about your struggles, someone who can encourage you to stick to your commitment. It's never easy to overcome temptation, but knowing that you are also accountable to someone besides your significant other will help you to stay on the “straight and narrow” path.

Finally, you're probably going to need to modify your behavior in the relationship. Start by taking yourself out of tempting situations, such as cuddling late at night, in the dark, or while alone. Then work on controlling your thoughts about physical intimacy. If you're lusting or fantasizing, you're setting yourself up to indulge when the opportunity presents itself.

God never wants us to feel restrained or to suffer in our relationships. However, He gave us His standards for our own protection, which we'll discuss more in a future column.

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