I remember my first kiss. I was in junior high. Some coed friends and I were playing spin the bottle and it eventually landed on my “crush.” After we kissed, I couldn't sleep that night. Not a wink. I had definitely “awakened love before its time.” Which wasn’t smart, because there was no way it could end well. A kiss either leads to more or it leads to a breakup—but in junior high it doesn't lead to marriage anytime soon.
Later in life, when marriage actually was a possibility, each dating relationship carried the question of when we should first kiss. I wish I could say I was wise about it, but the ignorance of junior high continued, and therefore I was driven more by emotions and desires. I ended up going further than I should have physically, which I would later regret.
For some people, whose main goal in dating is to have sex as quickly as possible, the question of when to first kiss may seem irrelevant. But if you are following Christ and therefore care about the fact that the Bible says premarital sex is a sin, and like all sin is simply not the best God has for you, then the question about when to start kissing before marriage becomes more important. When is it wise? Is it ever a sin to kiss someone you’re dating? The question comes up even more when you see people who wait until their wedding to have their first kiss. Is that the way it’s supposed to be done? Is that why the ceremony says, “You may now kiss the bride”?
What the Bible Says
The Bible doesn’t say a whole lot about dating, because dating as we know it is a modern invention. The Bible talks about being single, then engaged, and then married. It doesn’t talk about being single, dating, dating some more, hooking up, hanging out but not really dating, living together but not being married, swiping left and right, etc. That doesn’t mean the Bible is out-of-date; it may mean that we’re just doing this whole dating thing wrong.
The Bible does talk quite a bit about kissing, including at least one clear instance of kissing before marriage. In fact, in that case (Genesis 29:11), you have a guy (Jacob) kissing his future wife (Rachel) the first time they meet, sort of like a first date. However, kissing was more of a common greeting then, like a hug or a handshake today; the Bible also talks about Jacob kissing his dad (Genesis 27:26-27), his brother (Genesis 33:4), and his uncle, whom he’d also never met before (Genesis 29:13). So we’re probably talking about pecks on the cheek, not open-mouth kisses with tongue. Also, just because Jacob did something doesn’t mean that it was necessarily right; he made a lot of questionable decisions.
A more relevant verse is 1 Corinthians 6:18, which says to “flee from sexual immorality.” Now, kissing isn’t necessarily the sexual immorality that it’s telling us to flee from; it’s saying to flee from any kind of sex outside of marriage. But my question is: how do you flee from sex before marriage? Is an extended make-out session a way to “flee”? No; it’s a way to get as close as you can to sexual immorality without hopefully crossing the line. It’s the opposite of fleeing. And that means that kissing before marriage can be a sin, if it goes against 1 Corinthians 6:18.
There’s also 1 Timothy 5:1-2, which instructs Timothy, a young man, to treat “younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.” Now, of course you might kiss your sister, which means you could kiss a girl you are dating. But you would only kiss your sister in a certain way. You definitely would not French kiss your sister, for instance. And it would be hard to say you’re acting “with absolute purity” if you did.
So what’s the answer?
I’m not going to say you have to wait until your wedding to kiss, because the Bible doesn’t clearly say that. And where the Bible leaves things open, we have freedom.
However, that doesn’t mean that waiting is a bad idea. I think it’s a great idea. It’s probably even be the best option. It’s just not a requirement.
If you decide to kiss before marriage, you haven’t necessarily sinned. But there are some practical things to consider:
Make it a conscious decision. In other words, decide beforehand whether you are going to kiss while dating, and decide when that would be appropriate. Then stick by that decision. This is opposed to just “letting things happen”; if you make your decisions about physical intimacy in the spur of the moment, you’re likely to go further and move faster than you otherwise wanted.
Talk about it. Guys, this is part of being a leader in dating: you remove confusion and set out a plan or vision. If you think you shouldn’t kiss for the first 3 months, or 6 months, or 10 dates, or whatever you decide, talk with her about that. Don’t leave her wondering. You can explain that you are attracted to her—which may be an insecurity of hers—but you want to honor her and get to know her in a non-physical way.
Set ground rules. As mentioned, there are different kinds of kisses. There are also different situations in which kissing can occur. So while you’re making decisions and talking about it as a couple, set some barriers regarding what kind of kissing is allowed and the situations you allow yourself to get into. For example, our premarital class (for people who are engaged or seriously dating) encourages couples to sign a purity pledge that lists out a range of different physical activities, from holding hands to sex and everything in between. Light kissing might be allowed, whereas kissing the neck (or any place other than the lips or cheeks) is considered a step too far. Good ground rules might include “no kissing when alone at home” or “kissing is allowed only when we’re standing up, or have all four feet on the floor.”
Kissing can kill conversation. Literally, you can’t talk while kissing. This is one of the very practical reasons to wait: you’re trying to get to know each other and make decisions about marriage. If making out becomes a major part of your time together, it can cut short that process of getting to know each other in a non-physical way. The physical stuff will be a part of your marriage, but it’s not the foundation of your marriage. Conversation builds the foundation.
Flee sexual immorality. It’s a huge problem today, so it’s worth repeating. If your goal is to abstain from sex until marriage, don’t torpedo your own goal by adding extra temptation. Kissing is foreplay. It’s natural for you to want to go further once you start down that road. So if that’s at all a danger for you, don’t start down the road. There will be plenty of time for all of that after you get married.
I’ve officiated my share of weddings, and I’ve never once heard someone say that they wished they had gone farther physically before marriage. I’ve never had someone say they regretted waiting so long to kiss. I do know people, myself included, who wished they had waited longer.
Again, I know for some people this kind of talk might sound crazy. But just a few generations ago, 90% of what we tend to do in dating today would have sounded crazy, while waiting until marriage for any kind of physical intimacy would have been the cultural norm. Based on things like marriage and divorce rates, their way worked out a lot better than today’s way.
When do you think people should kiss in dating?
How Far Is Too Far?
How Long Should You Date Before Marriage?
Why Not Live Together?