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How Far Is Too Far?

It is the week of Valentine’s Day, a wonderful time for celebrating romantic love. This week there are going to be a lot of romantic celebrations with a lot of people all over the world. And listen, a lot of those celebrations, we just need to be honest, are going to be physical. There are going to be physical, romantic celebrations that are going to happen, and that is a good thing. That should take place. But here’s the other thing. And this is also something we need to be honest about. A lot of those celebrations are going to be physical, and they should not be. That is to say, when you believe in the Bible, you believe that romantic physical affection is appropriate in some contexts and not in other contexts. One question that one of you wrote in is the question how far is too far? If you are not married, if you’re in a dating or an engaged relationship, how far can you go in terms of physical affection before you cross a line and sin? So I want to answer that on the podcast this week.

I want to begin answering it by explaining that when people ask this question, how far is too far? How far can we go before we cross a line and sin? They are imagining a progression in their mind. They’re imagining, touching, leading to hand-holding, and then hand-holding, leading to embracing and then embracing, leading to kissing, and then kissing, leading to more intimate, touching, and on and on and on from there. There’s this progression and people’s minds, there’s this on-ramp to the sexual relationship, and in each phase of the ramp, there is a new progression to a deeper level of physical intimacy. The question is, okay, on that ramp, where do we stop? In that progression, where do we draw the line? Okay, we’ve now held hands, and we can go no further. Okay, we’ve now embraced, and we must stop. Okay, now that we’re kissing, we can’t do anything else. In this progression that people imagine in their minds, where do we draw the line? Where do we stop? That is the answer that people are looking for, and the problem is the Bible never does that. If we’re going to think biblically, we have to be honest that the Bible does not give us some progression of physical intimacy and then tells us that here is the safe place to stop. Here’s the right place to stop. Here’s the point after which you sin. The Bible does not do that because the Bible is concerned not about first your physical behaviors but is concerned primarily about an attitude of purity deep in your heart. The Bible wants you to be pure. God wants you to be sexually pure. He wants your relationships to be pristine. And so he doesn’t give you this progression, and then tell you, here’s where you stop, and after that, you’re dirty. It’s just more complicated than that.

Flee Sexual Immorality

In fact, one of the very, very, actually simple commands that the Bible gives is in 1 Corinthians 6:18. We get this command that comes with remarkable simplicity. Here’s what it says, “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body. But the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” Those words, “flee sexual immorality,” is a completely different logic than what most people mean when they ask the question. I’m not saying the person who asked this question has bad motives. But what most people mean when they ask this question, how far is too far, is how far can I go before I need to stop? And God says that’s not the issue at all. This is not we dip our toe in the water, and then we put our foot in, and then we wade in up to our knees. This is not what he’s saying. He says you look at sexual sin, and you run in the other direction. You flee sexual immorality; you get away from that thing. This is not a ramp that you edge up on. You drive past the ramp. You do not do this. You flee sexual immorality. The idea is not at all to draw a line right before we get in physical trouble right before we commit a sin. By the way, that line, if we weren’t going to do it, wouldn’t be the same for everyone. Some people are full of lust just by holding hands. Some people are tempted to sin and are in real trouble just with a hug. That’s not me saying that that’s just the way people are. That is the nature of the human heart. Each person listening to this has a heart that is wired just a little bit differently, and what tempts you and what leads you astray is not the same thing for someone else. And so that line, even if we weren’t going to draw, it wouldn’t even be the same for every other person. The deal is you are not allowed to sin in your heart. You’ve got to run away from sexual immorality. You’ve got to move in the complete opposite direction. And we as Christians must not have anything to do with sexual immorality.

This is another teaching in Ephesians 5:3, which says, “Sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness, must not even be named among you, as his proper among the saints.” He says it’s not just about sexual immorality, but it’s about impurity. It’s about that weird line drawing, and he says it’s not even about impurity. It’s about covetousness. It’s about wanting something you’re not allowed to want. You could be sitting there holding hands with somebody looking as innocent as all get out but have a heart full of wickedness and lust. And so the reality is, the question is not how far is too far? The question is not how far can I go before I get in trouble? The question, if we’re thinking biblically, is how far can I get away from the temptation to sin and from sexual immorality? That is a completely different question. That means you need to stay away from sexual immorality. If you have a boyfriend, if you have a girlfriend, if you are an engaged person, and you’re feeling temptations in your heart, don’t keep pushing the line further and further and further toward sexual immorality. You do what it takes to be pure. You pray you ask God for grace, and you trust Jesus to empower you that his grace is better than sexual sin. You get some accountability who’s going to know what your struggles are, who’s going to know when you guys are going to be together, who’s going to ask you hard questions about what you did when you were together, and you stay pure. Don’t try to see how far you can go. Flee sexual immorality.