Devotional Intimacy Pornography theology

Where is the line?

Anyone who grew up in an even remotely Christian culture has probably had this conversation at one point or another…

nathan32

Anyone who grew up in an even remotely Christian culture has probably had this conversation at one point or another. How much it actually affected each of our lives is debatable, but it has certainly been a popular topic in Christian circles for decades.

When it comes to sex, where is the line?

How far can you go before it’s too far?

My hope in writing this is not to sound like a 1990’s purity-bot, spouting off the same unhelpful jargon which ultimately leads people into shame, fear and the like, but maybe to help you think through some things as we all labor together to seek out a more holy and pure sexuality.

There was once a queen who was looking for a new bodyguard to tote her around on her royal litter. This was an incredibly important position in the kingdom, as he had to be incredibly strong to tote her around on the shoulder litter everywhere she went, but he also had to be trustworthy.

The royal court had narrowed the selection down to the top 3 contenders. The first man was called into the chambers and immediately bragged to the queen, “Your Highness, I am strong and capable and if we found ourselves in the mountains on the edge of a cliff, I could safely carry you within 5 feet of the edge of a cliff!”

He continued his speech and then the queen called in the next man. He began, “My Liege, I heard what my fellow candidate here said and I want you to know that I could carry you within three feet of the edge of a cliff and you would be completely safe!”

The queen considered this and finally called in the third man. He humbly entered the corridor and said, “My Queen, if the situation arose, I wouldn’t carry you anywhere near the edge of a cliff. I would keep you as far away from it as possible in order to keep you safe.”

And for some reason, the queen picked the third man.

Because there is safety in fleeing from the edge. There is no wisdom in tiptoeing the edge of catastrophe and hoping we don’t just trip over the edge.

And when it comes to sexual purity, I think we too often embody the first two candidates; we ask how close can we get to the boundary before we are in risky territory. But if we truly want to pursue purity, our hearts should be in a place of asking instead, How far can I stay from the edge? 

But that still leaves the question of course, Where is the edge?

I once heard a chapel speaker teach that, outside of marriage, you should not do anything you would not do to your mother or father, as that would therefore subject the action to being ‘sexual’. It seemed reasonable, as I would certainly not want to do anything beyond peck my mom on the cheek, and I could see how that would draw a rigid line between what is sexual and what is not.

However, this definition, while it may be necessary for some people, seemed to fall short for me. And the reason is, you will not date your mother or father. The person you will date will most certainly be other from your parents, and with this otherness comes a different set of rules, permissions, and boundaries.

I have engaged this conversation numerous times with all sorts of people, and I have finally come to my own definition of The Edge. It may look different for you, and of course, as with any theological statement, it is subject to critique and flux.

So my definition of sexual boundaries outside of marriage is: I refrain from anything involving reproductive organs. Sex in itself is reproductive in nature. And as such, certain organs are meant for reproductive purposes.

So when people ask me if oral sex is permissible, I’m forced to say no, because it directly involves a reproductive organ. Breasts are also inherently reproductive, so they too should be reserved for the husband and the child being fed by them. The list goes on, so whenever a sexual act is in question, I simply ask if it directly involves a reproductive organ.

In other words, if I ever find a girl loco enough to date me, I plan to refrain from everything but handholding and kissing. We don’t want to initiate the reproductive process (or even stimulate any reproductive organs) prematurely.

I think there is immense value in being someone who “stays far away from the edge” when it comes to sexual purity. I know it probably makes me come off as prudish, but someday, my wife will be so happy I was able to save as much of myself for her as possible.

I also want to add, as I do with all posts about sexual purity, that there is absolutely nothing that can make you too dirty or unredeemable for Jesus. He wants you and your body, and it is never too late to be washed by Him and to begin to live differently. (And if you’re anything like me, that means screwing up several times a day at first, but thank God He is patient and gracious when we do!)

There is such a stigma in the American Christian world about being a virgin, or crossing a certain line, or becoming unclean if we do, and I disagree with that. I think these boundaries are helpful in helping us to fight for purity because God has commanded to, but with them come a heap of shame and guilt if we ever cross these lines. That is not my intent with this post. There is no sin Christ has not destroyed, and no shame He is unable to heal.

My goal with this post is to bring some clarity to what is often a foggy gray area, often left to relativistic maxims like “whatever your personal line is, don’t cross it!” I hope to bring many of us to a better understanding of sexuality, and how to fight for purity as best we can. What do you think? Agree? Disagree?

As we continue this conversation and thought process, may we be people who love purity and hate sexual immorality. May we be people who seek to please God with our bodies as much as with our souls and spirits, and may we be people who love to stay far away from the edge of the cliff.

e

7 comments on “Where is the line?

  1. Sarah Aberer

    I am in love with your writing! You say the exact things that I couldn’t put into words. I am so grateful that I stumbled upon your posts and even more grateful that I decided to continue following you.
    Not only do you have the right words, but you are also you. It’s rare enough to have a man speak so openly and honestly about this, but (nowadays) it’s extremely rare for a young, attractive, charismatic, and well-spoken man, like yourself, to do the same (and I’m pretty positive that a girl wouldn’t have too be loco to date you. I’m sure you already have quite a few lines of women ‘loco’ enough).
    I admire you, greatly, for your courage, honestly, and integrity.
    I hope whomever I marry will have the same admirable qualities and beliefs (and that he’s also read some of your posts!)!! May God Bless you and all of your loved ones! Keep onwriting and being amazing! 😀

  2. Haha, loco enough to date you, c’mon! You’re a very good-looking guy who wants to know God and follow Him, my guess is that there are PLENTY of girls interested in dating you. Just sayin’. Good article. 🙂

  3. Physical purity is certainly something worth discussing, and I appreciate your perspective. But I’ve found that emotional purity is just as big of a problem – if not even bigger. Christian singles compensate what they aren’t doing physically by stripping naked emotionally. I’d love to see your input on where *that* line is.

    • @Rebekah,
      I second your request for Ethan to address emotional purity. My off-the-cuff suggestion is that emotional (and physical) intimacy should be commensurate to the level of commitment. and should not be the driving factor in the relationship. I’m sure we can think of specific applications appropriate for different types and stages of relationships.

  4. Ethan, thank you for sharing your thoughts and beliefs on subjects like this. I have been reading your blog for quite a while now and really appreciate your voice. I’m a Mormon and this post is exactly what we try to teach our youth and what I strive to teach my own children is exactly what you explained. Safety lies in staying away from the edge. In fact, there’s a really awesome video that illustrates this concept in a way that youth can really grasp it well.

    https://www.lds.org/youth/video/chastity-what-are-the-limits?lang=eng

    Thanks again for sharing your beliefs. I’m glad I found your blog 🙂

  5. Just curious, what would you do if you met a girl who said she didn’t want to kiss until her wedding day? I actually have a few friends who are holding to this standard.

    I do appreciate the “queen and bodyguard” allegory, though.

    • Sarah Aberer

      I amvery curious about this as well. I have never considered asking about it, though.
      Thanks for asking it! Can’t wait for the answer!

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