It’s a shame that physical affection is so prevalent in Christian dating. We must grasp that Scripture doesn’t commend such behavior. Don’t believe me?
When I was in middle school, the administration instituted a No-Touch policy. I can’t speak to whether or not there was some kind of increase in physical altercations or anything morally inappropriate going on among the members of the student body, but it was decided that touching should be outlawed. You might imagine how all the young folks poked fun at the dictate; I wouldn’t be surprised if the policy actually caused the reverse intended effect. Nonetheless I think there’s a lot of wisdom in such a policy; I actually wish it was something that dating Christians considered more seriously. Ah yes, the always interesting subject of what Christians in pre-martial relationships should or shouldn’t do. Care to know where I stand? Want to be challenged? Ready for a perhaps intense discussion? Whether you’re a man or woman, young or old, even in a relationship or not… I wish to present the platform that the Bible supports the idea of dating or engaged Christians not touching each other.
Now before diving into my points, I will answer the question that may very well be on your mind already. Yes, Christine (my wife) and I touched before being pronounced husband and wife. But before you come at me with your hypocrisy pitchforks, I readily confess it wasn’t the right thing to do. It also wasn’t exactly serious, but we did touch. Early on though we made an effort to reign in that area of our relationship. I composed a three-page document detailing what I thought were quality principles to govern ourselves by based on what the Bible teaches. Feel free to download the finished product here actually, just know that the contents are by no means perfect; we didn’t follow everything to a T, and you might even get a chuckle or two from what I came up with. I want to direct your focus nonetheless to the first Do not bullet under the first major point, which reads: [Do not…] Touch each other, at all.
Christine and I praise the Lord that our purposeful compromising hardly went further than leaning on each other’s foreheads while we were doing wedding and honeymoon planning. Are you thinking, “Why’s that such a big deal?” I’ll spend the rest of this article trying to explain my case.
I was floored to read that author Kevin DeYoung agrees with me about having a no-touch [dating] policy in chapter eight of his book The Hole In Our Holiness. We both think that Christians in general don’t give the idea much thought, and especially the millennial generation. Yet the truth is ladies and gentlemen that dating is a mere commitment to find out if you will ultimately become committed. It saddens me so much to see Christians conducting their relationships in the same ways unsaved people do. They hold hands. They hug intimately. They press up against each other. They pet one another. They even kiss. And that’s just what you see in public. I shudder to consider what sometimes goes on in secret. And why is it that parents and the church seem to frown upon this conduct less and less? I suggest that we’ve allowed ourselves to be more concerned about the opinion of dating Christians than the need to hold such Christians accountable to the teaching of Scripture. It’s no secret that more and more young believers are giving themselves over to pre-marital intimacy, and the Lord is not pleased!
Perhaps the number one reason dating or engaged Christians should not touch each other is for the simple fact that they don’t belong to each other. I’m sure you’ve heard that before. Someone you’re interested in always belongs to God and is someone else’s child before they’re ever your husband or wife. And I won’t agonize over the semantics of using the terms boyfriend and girlfriend. The fact remains that beginning to date someone doesn’t suddenly make them exclusively yours. And you won’t find any support in Scripture for intimacy prior to marriage. What you do find is verses like I Timothy 5:1-2, below.
Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.
I know the concept of dating is nowhere to be found in what Paul wrote to Timothy. However, I believe the above verses specifically address the issue of intimacy prior to marriage since all Christians are commanded to regard each other in all purity. This is what God says. So those of you who think pre-marital, intentional touching isn’t a big deal, please explain to me how the last three words of those verses alone ever begin to condone hand-holding, hugging, kissing, or anything else along such lines for dating Christians? Unbelievers engage in those ways because they don’t have a hint of interest in doing things God’s way! But God’s redeemed are different, and thus their relationships should be. What’s more valuable…the opinion someone (Christian or not) has about purity in a dating relationship, or what God thinks of our behavior? I don’t know about you, but I’m inclined to fear the One able to destroy the soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28)!
I also can’t help but be disappointed when I hear or know of dating Christians that claim they can control themselves. Well, God speaks to the impossibility of that in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Sure, that verse is addressed to Israel, but it rings no less true for any human being…even born-again Christians. Why, when we fallen humans are so quick to rationalize our sin, do we not think there’s something terribly wrong when dating Christians are touching one another? There’s one word to describe the attitude that you can control yourself in a pre-martial relationship where touching is permitted: prideful. And you might as well toss dangerous in there too.
Another thought… Why should a Christian want on their conscience the knowledge that they were at all intimate with someone they were dating, especially if the relationship ultimately ceases? This goes for the guy and the gal. A believer’s job is to help protect the purity of whomever he/she is dating for the sake of the person that will ultimately marry him or her, not to take advantage of him or her. If it actually is you who becomes married to said person…wonderful, but what if it isn’t? Does this reality not cross our minds anymore? There’s plenty of time and opportunity to figure out intimacy after the wedding; God never tells us to try to figure out physical compatibility before-hand. And there’s a reason for that; sex is meant above all else for God’s glory, and second to bless a married man and woman (Hebrews 13:4).
I’ll point out at least one more verse about this subject, Romans 13:14.
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
If you’re a Christian dating another Christian, I challenge you to explain how touching your boyfriend or girlfriend is anything other than self-gratification. Allow me to save you the time and trouble; you can’t. And yes, I regret even the forehead-leaning that Christine and I did a few times. I would have never done that with her outside of dating, and I sure wouldn’t have wanted someone else that she might have dated to do so either. Yet somehow it seems when Christians can say they’ve arrived to the point of dating someone, that somehow becomes a license for them to be licentious. It’s as though we think, “Alright, we got to the dating stage; we can do whatever we want now and act like we’re married!” Well, I think I speak for many other Christians when I say it’s great to see a believing man or woman begin dating, as it seems to be a process that more and more avoid nowadays. However, I believe with my whole heart that God isn’t the least bit impressed when couples dishonor the marriage bed by acting as though they’re already there. I don’t need to get into all the obvious physical reactions that take place when people, let alone dating Christians, touch; I’m here to simply plead that you stop if you are…or that you encourage others to stop if you’re observing it. My goal here certainly is not to condemn anybody, but simply to encourage that we get back to pleasing the Lord with our relationships…not ourselves.
My primary motivation for wanting to discuss this touchy subject is because I’ve been there. I’m responsible for making many ungodly decisions in years past, and committing many foolish sins against women. I praise God those sins are under the blood of Christ, but that doesn’t mean God suddenly reels in the necessary consequences. The details of what I’ve done aren’t important, but I understand at least somewhat how a man’s mind operates; and most others are likely similar to me as far as what they would do in the moment. Yet each of those moments in my life was a transgression against a holy God that clearly commanded me to not do what I was doing. This is an impassioned plea for you to wake up and smell the immoral coffee. A hand-hold leads to a hug. A hug leads to more physical closeness. Physical closeness leads to a kiss…and you get the picture. Go ahead and deny; assert that this doesn’t apply to everybody. But I’m not stupid; I know what the Bible teaches and what it says about the human heart. And above all else, God knows everything we do, and surely is not mocked (Galatians 6:7). If you’re dating and truly want to please God instead of yourself, I urge you to heed this warning before something awful happens!
Do you still think it is OK for dating Christians to touch? If so, why? How do you react to the Bible verses and principles I pointed out? (There could be many more, mind you.) How about those of you in a relationship? What do you think about all this? Are you perhaps observing dating Christians touching? I’d like to hear from you as well! In the end, in spite of the decisions my wife and I made prior to being married…I will always support a no-touch policy for Christians who are dating. No sin; no regrets.