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How Far Is Too Far?

Ah, that question … definitely a relevant topic when it comes to relationships. From my perspective, I recently watched a girl I really like get on a plane to the UK for 7 months so if you had to ask me that question right now— “How far is too far?” — I’d have to say, “London! Yes, London is definitely too far!” But I digress.

I find that generally non-Christians don’t ask this question all that much, because they don’t usually have the same moral standards as Christians do (not to say non-Christians are less moral than Christians. Way too often they can be way ahead of many of us in that area, but they don’t follow the Bible so, from their frame of reference, the same standards don’t typically apply to them.)

But a lot of Christians ask the question, and in my opinion they are asking the wrong question. Even posing the question, “How far is too far?” tends to show bad motivation. To put the question another way would be to say, “How much can I get away with before God is upset with me?” or “How close am I allowed to get to sinning before it actually is called sin?” or “How near to the cliff am I able to stand?”

Because we all know the “cliff” is having sex, right? Having sex is wrong, but surely there must be a bunch of other stuff that is passable. Then we try to find other ways around it. One of the best answers I’ve ever heard to the “Is oral sex really sex?” question was my buddy Craig, who replied, “Well which of the two words ‘oral’ and ‘sex’ make you think it might be something else?” Surely they would have found a better name for it if it wasn’t sex.

“Jesus, what can I get away with?” must be a very painful question for Him to hear. It is acknowledging that sin is bad and that we’re not supposed to be doing it, but yet also acknowledging that it does seem so attractive. We generally know from experience that sin can be fun, and so we really would like to get as close as possible, with it still being all right with God.

God doesn’t, in so many words in the Bible, say “Thou shalt not haveth sex before thou art wedlocked” but in Genesis 2:24 He says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” When God presents the picture and pattern of what marriage is about in the Bible, He introduces the topic of sex—as a symbol of the union between man and woman in marriage.

If you look carefully at any of the laws and commandments in the Bible, you will start to see the background to the statement Jesus made about “bringing life and life to the full” in John 10:10. Why does God say sex should be reserved until marriage? Because that is how it is intended and because that is what is best for us!

All sorts of negative things are introduced when sex happens outside of the context of marriage: sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS, unwanted pregnancies, emotional damage, guilt and the list goes on. When you are using something for the purpose it was created for, the results are good. When you try to use it someplace it was not made for, the consequences can be devastating. But back to our initial question: If “How far is too far?” is the wrong question, what should we be asking?

What about, “How much of myself would I like to keep pure and untouched for the person I intend to marry one day?” or “How much would I love to keep special for my marriage partner so that on our wedding night they will receive what nobody else has even come close to receiving from me?” How about, “Do I value the person I will one day commit the rest of my life to so much that it is worth sacrificing some personal, short-term fun and satisfaction now in order to have something unique to give them later?”

Starting to see the picture? What is the main difference between these two statements? “How far is too far?” is all about me – What do I get? How much do I get out of this deal? How do I get sexual satisfaction? “What can I keep special?” is all about the person I am saving myself for and treating them with absolute love and putting-them-firstness.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 2:3-5

I fully understand that it is not the easiest place to get to and I am convinced that you will fail if you are doing it in your own strength. But God’s Spirit is a spirit of love and of power and of self-discipline. With Him in our lives and offered absolute control, ALL things are possible!

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The world is all about instant gratification. Get what you want now, enjoy yourself, don’t consider the consequences, don’t worry about your partner’s feelings, “safe sex,” it’s all about you. Let me tell you with absolute conviction that the only safe sex is that between a husband and a wife committed to themselves within the freedom that marriage gives them.

Let me just remind a lot of you that if you have messed up, that does not make God love you any less. There’s forgiveness and much grace for those who go before God and repent of their sin. God can heal broken hearts and lives. It is not too late. But for those of you who still have that choice to make, don’t even let it get to that point. Save the good stuff for the right time – and as much of it as you can – I’m not going to give you a list of what’s okay and what’s not – just be asking the right question and making the right decisions. I’m thinking the price is well worth it.

[Brett Anderson is the organizer of a Christian festival in South Africa called Newsong Festival and is involved in youth ministry at the Vineyard church he attends.]

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