*Biblical Dating: To Kiss or Not to Kiss *
by Scott Croft
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A promise is a promise.
Last time I appeared on this site, I said that I would lay out my position on biblical dating and then turn it over to all of you to determine the rest of the column's topics by your questions.
You have not disappointed.
As many of you will know from the Boundless blog, The Line, the last piece generated many posts and comments, from the challenging to the supportive, the general to the specific.
In addition to what all of you saw on the blog, I have received dozens of questions and comments in e-mails, which I and the folks at Boundless have culled through to see what the most pressing questions seem to be.
Judging from both frequency and "passion," the most pressing questions arising from the last piece involve physical involvement — which I'm about to cover, initiation of relationships (especially the bit about involving the woman's father), and the practical details of how one of these relationships works.
All of these topics will, Lord willing, be covered in future columns.
It's simply impossible for me to address all of the fantastic individual questions and comments we've received, but know that we will do our very best to incorporate as many as possible into the columns themselves and the blog discussions that follow.
On to our topic for this column.
Quite a few of you asked questions or made comments about my statement in Biblical Dating, an Introduction that "Biblical dating assumes NO physical intimacy" outside of marriage.
Many wanted to know, did I really mean no physical intimacy?
What about showing affection?
Isn't it sex outside of marriage that Scripture explicitly prohibits?
How can you say definitively that other things are wrong?
What if we're in a committed relationship?
Shouldn't our physical relationship "progress" as other aspects of our relationship deepen?
In this day and age, how far is really too far?
I understand most physical stuff is wrong, but what about just kissing?
All good questions.
With respect to pre-marital, romantically oriented kissing, we're clearly talking about an area about which reasonable believers can (and do) disagree.
Let's go through what I hope will become the usual drill here.
I will lay out what I view to be applicable biblical principles and passages on this topic, and then I and the editors will leave it to you to follow up with blog posts, comments and discussion.
I'll start by putting my position right on the line:
I believe the Bible to teach that all sexual activity outside of marriage is sin, and all romantically oriented physical activity is sexual activity.
In my view, this includes premarital kissing.
As the questions above indicate, however, many single Christians have questions about whether premarital physical activity at some level beyond kissing is OK.
We need to address the whole spectrum ("just kissing" included).
Let me offer a caveat or two at the outset.
First, the fact that "romantically oriented" is in italics above is important.
I am obviously not saying that hugs and kisses of affection or greeting to relatives and the like is out of bounds.
Another important point has to do with culture.
In some cultures, kisses of greeting — between members of the same sex or of the opposite sex — as well as hand-holding and other forms of physical expression during normal, non-romantic social intercourse, are more common.
You might even be able to talk me into the notion that brief, "non-leaning-in" hugs of greeting, sympathy, etc. between men and women who are not romantically involved are OK.
We all know what we're talking about here, and these are not the things I mean to address in this column.
The game changes when two people are romantically involved or "semi-involved" (a fascinating phrase I recently heard).
Before you start throwing things at your computer — I can't feel it you know, you're just hurting your own computer — let's go to Scripture.
It is certainly true that no passage of Scripture says — in so many words, at least — "thou shalt not kiss before marriage."
Having said that, I submit that there is a strong argument to be made from Scripture that there is no room for any sexual relationship outside of marriage.
The argument becomes clearer when we look at some of what the Bible has to say about (1) sex, (2) our relationships with other believers and (3) sexual immorality itself.
The "S" Word
As a good initial principle here, we should affirm that sex itself (and sexual activity in general) is not inherently negative or sinful.
On the contrary, in the proper context, it is a kind and good gift of God.
Michael Lawrence and other able Boundless authors have written before about the wonderful gift of sex, so I won't belabor the point except to repeat that the Scripture passages on sex, taken together, make very clear that God instituted sex within marriage for purposes of procreation, pleasure, intimacy, holiness, and — ultimately — for his glory.
God instituted sex within marriage as part of his design of the family (Gen.
In 1 Cor.
7:3 and following, Paul says once we are married, our bodies literally belong to our spouse; he also instructs spouses to meet one another's sexual needs and to be together regularly so as to protect ourselves from falling into ungodly lust and extramarital sexual activity.
If you have any doubts about God's intention to give us sex as a wonderful, pleasurable gift, Song of Songs should put them to rest.
In Song of Songs, God has given us a holy and beautiful picture of a marital sexual relationship, and everyone seems to be having an excellent time.
Even there, however, God is clear that sex is uniquely for marriage: "Do not arouse or awaken love before it so desires (i.e., before it's appropriate — within marriage)."
(Song 2:7) A blog comment or two emerging from the last column suggested a different interpretation of this verse and Song in general, but the orthodox interpretation of the book suggests both that an actual sexual relationship is part of what the narrative relays, and a context (at the time of the sexual part of the relationship) of marriage.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ
So marriage is a unique relationship, and the good gift of sex is not only allowed but commanded within that relationship.
Still, the overwhelming majority of believers will only share that relationship with one person in their entire lives.
How are we to relate to everyone else (especially believers), and how does that question inform the topic of premarital sexual activity — including kissing?
The simple answer is that every believer to whom I am not married is my brother or sister in Christ, and I am to act accordingly.
There are too many passages to mention in this space that communicate God's command to live for God's glory and to "love" one another — defined as putting the spiritual good of others above our own desires.
We are to do this in light of what God has done for us in Christ and in light of Christ's impending return.
Just a few examples: Romans 12, especially vv.
9-13 ("Love must be sincere.... Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.
Honor one another above yourselves.");
Romans 13:8-14, especially vv.
9b and 10a ("Love your neighbor as yourself.
Love does no harm to its neighbor."); 1 Cor.
13:4-7, especially v. 5 (love "is not self-seeking").
More specifically, 1 Tim 5:1-2 reiterates the "family" metaphor among believers and instructs us about how we are to treat our fellow members of the body of Christ:
"Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father.
Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity."
This is a didactic (teaching) passage generally instructing us about how to relate to other "family members" among God's people.
We should note this analogy with care.
With the exception of husbands and wives, there is no sexual dimension to "familial" relationships.
Also, look at that phrase about how younger women should be treated — absolute purity.
As a lawyer, I almost never see absolute statements.
It's the strongest possible language Paul can employ.
4:3-8 gets even more specific:
"It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him.
The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you.
For God did not call us to be impure, but to lead a holy life.
Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his holy spirit."
Look closely at verse 6.
Some translations render the word "wrong" as "defraud."
To defraud someone is to deceive that person — in this context, to imply a commitment that does not exist by committing acts with someone that are appropriate only in the context of a particular relationship (i.e., marriage) in order to satisfy my own "passionate lust."
To commit sexual immorality with and against someone, far from showing the "love" to which Scripture calls all believers, is to act like those "who do not know God," and this passage calls such acts "sin."
Now, one obvious counterargument to the point I intend to make is that the Scriptures I've cited above just beg the question of whether kissing and other sexual activity violate those passages.
The argument might run thus: "Of course I want to be loving to others.
Of course I want to care for their spiritual good.
I just think I can show genuine affection by engaging in kissing and~/or other sexual activity (short of intercourse) with someone I clearly care about and still obey those passages."
Let's explore that idea.
Let's say for the sake of argument that it is theoretically possible to engage in extramarital romantically oriented physical activity and obey the above biblical standards while doing it.
Have you ever met that mark?
Think about the times you have engaged in any type of physical activity with someone not your spouse.
It might have been last night or last week or last year or back in high school or college.
Maybe one or both of you achieved orgasm even though you didn't actually "have sex" as you define it.
Maybe you explored one another's bodies but were only partially naked.
Maybe you just caressed one another above the waist as you kissed.