(Edited to remove words that activate filters.)
What does the Bible say about the physical intimacy and dating? Read on to find out!
Over the past few weeks I’ve been answering some of the most common questions that I’ve been asked about dating and relationships in over twenty years of college ministry and young adult discipleship.
First we tackled “What does it really mean to ‘guard your heart?'” and discussed proper priorities in the emotional quicksand of dating. Is it okay to fall in love? Check out that post here.
Then we discussed the question the overachievers ask, “Should we do a devotional together?,” which might be the quasi-pious question camouflaging the real anxiety: “How can I bubblewrap this relationship?” You can see that post here.
Today’s question is probably the most important one. What does the Bible say about physical intimacy and dating?
Let’s be honest here. The Bible doesn’t say a whole lot about 21st century dating. It says absolutely nothing about Tinder or even ChristianMingle.com. And I remember going on a hunt through the Bible to show my friends what it said about physical intimacy before marriage and that’s when I realized that even that wasn’t as cut-and-dried as I wished it would be.
So let’s take a look together.
What Does The Bible Say About Physical Intimacy Before Marriage?
The Bible Shows Us the Creator’s Context for Intimacy
“In the beginning, God created…”
We humans think we invented intimacy. It makes all the difference in the world to understand that intimacy was a gift given to us by the Creator. God invented it. Doesn’t that just blow your mind a little?
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both [unclothed] and they felt no shame.”
God set that gift into a context for us. Physical intimacy was given to us for marriage. Side note: God created marriage, too. It’s not a human construct. It has a definition and purpose and limits given to us by the Creator God himself. Intimacy, too, has a purpose and limits set down by its Creator.
- Definition: …stay tuned! I’ll address this question in the next dating FAQ!
- Purpose: Unity, intimacy (“they will become one flesh”) and procreation
- Limits: Marriage (“the man and his wife”)
The Bible Shows Us God’s Standards for Intimacy
Read through these verses that address this topic:
“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister.”
I Thessalonians 4:3-5
“But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.”
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Matthew 5:27, 28
These verses show us the standards that God set around physical intimacy. These are the do’s and the don’ts that he set in place to protect our hearts and our relationships with him and each other.
The “do’s”: Be sanctified. Control your body. Be holy. Be honorable.
The “don’ts”: No sexual immorality (not even a hint). No passionate lust. Don’t wrong a brother or sister in this way. Don’t commit adultery.
Sexual immorality and adultery are any sexual relationship outside of God’s context of marriage. This would include premarital sexual activity and extramarital sexual activity, including looking at sexual images. This verse shows us that the standard is not even a hint.
I don’t know when your appreciation of an actor’s good looks crosses over into lust. I don’t know when your romance novels cross over from a pleasant escape into the territory of sexual immorality. I don’t know when kissing the man or woman you love turns into passionate lust. But I think you know.
Not even a hint. That is God’s standard.
And I’ve failed.
By this standard – by God’s own standard – I have been sexually immoral. And I expect you have, too.
So, what now?
The Bible Shows Us God’s Grace for Sinners
I love the beach. I love to swim and splash and play in the waves. On a few occasions I’ve ended up at the beach unexpectedly. I try to make do without a swimsuit. I kick off my shoes and roll up my jeans and I tell myself I’ll just get my feet wet. What happens every time? Almost every time I go in too deep. Before I know it, my ankles are wet. And sometimes a big waves catches me off guard and the splash reaches all the way to my thigh.
And I think, “Well, now I’ve done it.” For the rest of the day I’m going to be sandy and sticky and salty. And now that I’m already wet, maybe I should just dive in and make the most of it.
This is the temptation we have when we’ve made a wrong decision with our sexual purity. “Well, now I’ve done it. I might as well dive in.”
But God’s grace is better than that. God’s grace doesn’t say, “Well, try to do better and maybe eventually you’ll dry off.” Rather, in his grace, God takes us to the showers, cleans off all the salty, sticky sea water, and gives us a fresh change of clothes.
“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”
Acts 3:19 NIV
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
1 John 1:9 NIV
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV
There is a Savior just for you. For me. Our Savior is excellent at what he does.
With God we can start over fresh with a new purity that comes from a cleansed heart.
There Is A Better Way
We’re about to get into the nitty gritty.
I think I understand that we should wait until marriage. But what about kissing? What about making out? How far is too far?
Stay tuned for the next chapter of FAQs For Christian Dating!