Yeah but… how far is too far?
That's right, we're talking about sex.
From the moment we discover that our bodies are sexual to when we finally say “I do”, our romantic relationships struggle with the question “how far should we go?” We want to know how to express our sexual attraction to someone while still honouring God. So we wonder whether we can hold hands, kiss, cuddle, touch private parts etc. How far can we go while still honouring God?
In our Christian lives we want to do what makes God most happy. But part of making God happy is being aware of what makes God unhappy. The good news is that the bible does answer the question for us and gives us good reason s for the boundary God sets.
In 1 Corinthians 6, the Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians that God wants them to honour him with their bodies (1 Cor 6:20). His point is that what we do in this life matters, especially when it comes to how we use the sexualness of our bodies. God says that we must be really carefully that any sexual uniting of our bodies with someone else only happens in marriage. There are four reasons why this is so important:
- We will be raised in the same way that Jesus was (1 Cor 6:14)
- Our bodies are members of Christ himself (1 Cor 6:15)
- Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19)
- We are not our own, we were bought at a price (1 Cor 6:19-20)
Two big questions are often asked about this passage:
- What about smoking and drugs?
- This doesn’t apply to me and my boyfriend because it’s talking about having sex with prostitutes, right?
Temple of the Holy Sprit – smoking and drugs? Sometimes people say: “you shouldn’t smoke because your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit”. There may be good reasons not to smoke (it kills you) and to take drugs (they’re illegal and God says obey the government), but that’s not what 1 Corinthians 6 is talking about. Paul is specifically referring to the sexuallness of our bodies. He says: “All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.” (1 Cor 6:18 NIV).
Isn’t this talking about sex with prostitutes? Paul is addressing the issue of people who are visiting prostitutes, that is true (see 1 Cor 6:15). But he uses the opportunity to address the bigger issue: the general use of our sexualness. In chapter 6 he gives the key principle that we are not our own, we were bought at a price, therefore we should honour God with our bodies. The very next verse explains what that means.
In 1 Cor 7:1 Paul responds to an issue that was raised in a letter from the Corinthians, to do with marriage and singleness. 1 Corinthians 7:1 is not translated very well in the NIV (see technical note below). It should read “It is good for a man to not touch a woman (in a sexual way).” Paul is drawing a clear line in that any contact between a man and a woman must not be sexual if it is outside of marriage.
So what about the question: How far should I go? The answer is: don’t have any contact that is sexual. That obviously rules out any touching of private parts or any viewing of each other inappropriately but will also include certain types of cuddling and kissing. You need to ask yourself “is there anything about what we are doing that is sexual?” One good question is, “would I be happy to do this with my sister or brother?” The reason that’s a good question is because it helps you work out whether it’s sexual or not.
But remember the principle:
“You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body.”
1 Cor 6:19-20 NIV