My phone screen lit up as a text came in.
“I need to talk to you. I have a confession to make.”
It was one of my best friends, and the urgency of her message surprised me. I quickly responded, and soon enough, a story poured out — one I didn’t expect. This friend, who loves Jesus and has dedicated much of her life to serving and loving Him, had crossed a line she hadn’t expected to with her boyfriend. Through a series of circumstances, they had fallen into an unhealthy habit of indulging in intimate acts, always stopping short of actually having sexual intercourse, but going much further than either of them had ever planned.
FLAMES OF DESIRE
It’s often tempting to look at this in a self-righteous manner, shaking your head as you wonder how a Christian couple could find themselves in such a situation. But this isn’t the first couple who’s fallen into sexual sin, and they certainly won’t be the last. Unless you’ve experienced the flames of desire yourself, it is difficult to fully understand what is needed to resist temptation and choose to honour God in these decisions.
I remember the early days of dating, when just staring into my then-boyfriend, now-husband Josh’s eyes made me feel like swooning, and even the slight brushing of hands could send my heart into overdrive. Yet after a few months, neither of those things were particularly stimulating or exciting. They were nice, but stopped being special. The same happened with holding hands, hugging, and me leaning on his shoulder. Every single time, the buzz would wear off, and soon, it felt like we needed something more to experience that level of intimacy again.
My mind started to drift as I wondered if it would be so bad if we started kissing, or if we were to lie down together on the sofa, or if we were to be alone at home. The intense desire I had for more physical intimacy was so overwhelming at times!
What helped us both immensely was the fact that we had had very open and honest conversations about our desire to honour God in our relationship, and how we wanted to go about it. A few months into our relationship, Josh and I sat down for a talk that lasted a few hours, outlining our convictions about boundaries in dating, how we formed them, and what we believed was necessary for us to do in order to keep them.
Was it awkward? Yes! But as our relationship progressed and the complexities of our desires changed, I was so glad we had already talked about it before. There came moments when either of us wanted to make a move but didn’t, because we wanted to honour each other and our commitments to God, and help each other to do so.
REMEMBER, IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT AVOIDING PARTICULAR ACTIONS LIKE KISSING OR NOT HAVING SEX BECAUSE YOU FEEL IT'S THE "CHRISTIAN" THING TO DO.
IT’S TIME FOR THE TALK
Perhaps you are in a relationship and are struggling in the area of physical intimacy. Maybe you don’t find it a problem at all at the moment. Either way, it will be beneficial to talk through some boundaries with your boyfriend if you are serious about your commitments to God. Here’s how you can get started:
1. Have a game plan
Before talking with your boyfriend, take some time to pray and ask God about the boundaries you should set in order to honour Him with your body (1 Cor 6:19–20). Remember, it’s not just about avoiding particular actions like kissing or having sex because you feel like it’s the “Christian thing to do”, but about ensuring that you have a clear conscience before the Lord (Heb 13:18). Be honest about the specific struggles you face in sexual purity, and think about the levels of intimacy you should avoid in order not to fall into temptation.
IF YOU'VE ALREADY GONE FURTHER THAN YOU WANT TO AND FEEL LIKE THERE'S NO GOING BACK, YOU COULDN'T BE MORE WRONG.
2. Gather your courage, and just do it!
Intentionally set aside some time to talk through each of your convictions about sexual morality, and your desired boundaries. Don’t just talk about the actions you want to avoid though! Give each other time to share why you believe sexual purity matters, and your beliefs about what “purity” is to begin with. Talk through the specifics about how you are going to keep these boundaries, such as by not going to each other’s home when no one else is there, or only doing in private what you would be willing to do in public. Agree to respect the boundary that is “stricter” and to avoid pushing each other to do things that might cause discomfort.
3. Keep the conversation going
Don’t assume that just because you’ve had the conversation once, you’re done. As you proceed in the relationship, you may find that there are things that come to your attention that you didn’t know would be an issue for you. Revisit the boundaries you have decided on together; you may have to come up with new ones as different scenarios come up.
4. Get external input
Share the boundaries you have agreed on with a person of authority, such as a leader, pastor or even your parents, and get them to hold you accountable. It would be best if they are married, as they would be able to provide perspective on what it is like to go through the range of emotions, temptations and struggles from the time of dating, to engagement, and finally marriage. Be humble and listen to advice you may not agree with. Constantly ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you and your boyfriend personally and convict your hearts in a similar fashion.
TOO FAR GONE?
If you’ve already gone further than you want to and feel like there’s no going back, you couldn’t be more wrong. Our God readily forgives as long as our hearts are repentant and ready to change (1 John 1:9). It may not be easy, but many couples have been able to stop indulging in sexual intimacy before marriage with the help of the Holy Spirit.
After my friend confessed what she and her boyfriend had done, they took practical and meaningful steps toward righting their wrongs and making sure what happened didn’t happen again. They established new boundaries that they have since kept, though not without some difficulty. They involved their pastors and leaders, and have even taken the brave step of going through counselling as a couple in order to forgive themselves, and each other, for leading each other into sin.
To me, that is a beautiful picture of a Christian couple acknowledging the grace of God and working together to live in a way that pleases Him in spite of their initial failings. None of us are ever too far gone for God’s grace!
To those of you who have not done so, I urge you to consider the value of forming your own boundaries and talking it through with your boyfriend. After all, it is never an accident when a couple “suddenly” finds themselves in a position that they never intended — it is almost always a series of conscious decisions to keep going even when their consciences are pricked. The devil is constantly working to tempt and ensnare us; he won’t succeed if we resist and stand firm in the faith together (1 Pet 5:8–9).