As sex outside of marriage gets increasingly common in modern society, how does a dating couple “flee from temptation” and withstand sexual urges? Pastor Bobby Chaw teaches that it all starts in the heart.
Mainstream media has ingrained in us the idea that love is sex. Movies and drama series also portray sex as a rite of passage to adulthood—if you didn’t get it on in college, you are not normal. The truth is, what is common is not necessarily normal.
The Bible sees sexual relations in a very different way. At a Virtual Missions conference organised by City Harvest’s The Harvest Network in November, the church’s executive pastor, Bobby Chaw taught a workshop on maintaining sexual purity while dating. He began the workshop by debunking some myths around the purpose and nature of sex.
THE TRUTH ABOUT SEX
Here are some common notions: sex is simply recreational; dating is the time to find out if you are sexually compatible as a couple; most needs can be met through physical intimacy. If these notions were true, then the sexually inexperienced would be living an unfulfilled life psychologically, emotionally, and developmentally in comparison to those with sexual experiences. Can those who are not engaged in a sexually active lifestyle still lead a fulfilling life?
Jesus is the perfect example of a single who led the most fulfilling life, living out His purpose here on earth. He maintained sexual purity and committed neither fornication nor adultery. Remember that Jesus was made “fully human in every way” (Heb 2:17, NIV) and was “tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” (Heb 4:15, NIV)—Jesus lived a life without sexual relations. Was He worse off psychologically, emotionally, and developmentally?
The Bible tells us “In Him was life” (Jn 1:4). The Greek word for “life” is zōē, which means the absolute fullness of life. In other words, you still can grow in your relationship, find intimacy and compatibility with each other, and meet each other’s needs without having sex!
The Bible does not say that sex is evil or to be shunned. God made humans with deep desires for affection, attraction and romantic intimacy between males and females. These desires are good and normal.
However, in the Biblical worldview, sex is designed to be fulfilled in marriage (Gen 2:24). God’s plan for each person is to have his or her own Adam or Eve. This requires a deep commitment to be faithful to one person.
HOW TO KEEP SEXUAL PURITY WHILE DATING?
Purity is not simply a physical condition of the body, such that you avoid sexual intercourse before marriage. It is an attitude of the soul. It applies when one is single or married.
To those who are single, being pure means not having sexual relations before marriage. To those who are married, staying pure means not having sex (or any form of romantic or intimate relation) outside of the marriage (Heb 13:4).
Purity starts from within. Pastor Bobby shared four ways to stay pure in one’s heart.
1. Keep Your Heart Pure
When the Bible talks about the heart, it refers to a person’s imagination, visions and dreams. It also implies a person’s passion and desires as well as motives and morality. In Matthew 5:27-28 (NIV) Jesus said, “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.
It is important to guard the imagination of the heart. In fact, the Bible tells us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Pro 4:23, NIV) This means that everything we do or express was first conceived as a thought or desire in our mind and heart. So, if you do not want to cross the line into sexual immorality, start by guarding your mind and heart!
What do you allow to enter the realm of your imagination? What kind of books or literature do you read? What social media content, movies or TV series have you been watching?
Proverbs 23:7 tells us, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” We need to be mindful of what we feed our mind and soul. Be intentional and conscious of the imaginations and pictures that are playing and replaying in your mind and heart.
2. Exercise Self-Control
Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:23). It is a continuous daily exercise. Today, you may be feeling strong and able to overpower lust and temptation; but it doesn’t mean that you will have the same strength tomorrow. When tomorrow comes, you need to exercise self-control again.
When two people experience deeper intimacy, a stronger commitment will form between them. Similarly, deep intimacy also requires unwavering honesty and accountability. The two parties must be willing to bare their souls to each other, because trust can only be built on truth and honesty. These are responsibilities of privilege.
If you are not ready for the responsibility, then don’t trespass into privilege. If you want sex, then get married! If not, follow the Bible instruction to “treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.” (1 Tim 5:1-2)
3. Set Boundaries
In dating, people often ask, “How far can I go?” It is interesting to note that the Independent Counsel’s Office of the United States Department of Justice in the case of Bill Clinton v. Paula Jones (1997), defined “sexual relations” as follows:
A person engages in “sexual relations” when the person knowingly engages in, firstly, contact with the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks of any person with an intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person. Secondly, contact between any part of the person’s body or an object and the genitals or anus of another person. Or thirdly, contact between the genitals or anus of the person and any part of another person’s body.
The word “contact” here refers to intentional touching either directly or through clothing. Therefore, instead of asking “How far can I go?—more importantly, the question you need to ask is: What is my intention? Is it to cause arousal? Is it to gratify sexual desire?
If we want to err on the side of caution and avoid causing unwanted sexual arousal, we need to understand that men and women respond to sexual stimulation differently. Men generally respond to visual sexual stimuli while women generally respond to emotional reactions, such as affection, attention, and romantic conversations.
With this understanding, a dating couple should behave responsibly towards each other. For example, a woman should not get naked in front of her boyfriend, or his brain will go crazy! She would need to be mindful of what she is exposing him to. Similarly, a man needs to watch what he says and be mindful not to make conversations that would arouse his girlfriend’s sexual desires. Couples may think that since they are going to be married, they have nothing to hide from each other. But the truth is, he is not her Adam, nor is she his Eve until they are married.
Highlighting the red zone on the sexual ladder, Pastor Bobby taught that in the eyes of the law, activities that intend to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of a person, either directly or through clothing—is considered sexual relations. It is therefore incorrect to say, “We didn’t have sexual intercourse, so we didn’t have sex.”
If you play with fire, you will most likely get burned! That is why the Bible teaches us to flee sexual immorality (1 Cor 6:18). Christian couples must remember that each person is accountable to God in their actions and “and there is no creature hidden from His sight” (Heb 4:13).
So be wise while you are dating. Avoid being in dark places alone, don’t conduct activities behind closed doors, and avoid compromising situations. Most importantly, invite God into your conversation and relationship.
4. Focus On Building Friendship
Your partner should be your best friend. A relationship should go from friendship to courtship to intimacy in marriage. With this priority in mind, your relationship will have a broad, strong and solid foundation.
Remember that intimacy is more than sex! It is—spiritual, emotional, social, and sexual—intimacy!
Song 2:7 puts it plainly, “Do not arouse or awaken love until the time is right.” To be a disciple of Jesus, one needs to practice delayed gratification.
What if you have already crossed the line, fornicated and lost your virginity? Does it mean you cannot be pure for your Adam or Eve anymore? If you are truly repentant and purpose to turn away from sexual sin, God is able to restore you from the guilt and shame of the past.
Virginity, chastity and purity are an attitude of the soul. Jesus says in Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” He is our loving Heavenly Father, and He forgives and redeems sexual sins and mistakes just like other transgressions. Come before Him in repentance and ask Him for forgiveness and strength to withstand temptation. Exercise the three ways to maintain sexual purity and find fulfilment in living for Jesus!