How far is too far? I get asked that question all the time, in reference to physical boundaries when dating. Basically, what sexual activity is allowed?
The world’s so-called wisdom would typically say that “it depends.” That’s not very helpful. It suggests that there is an answer (there is a “too far”), but it is impossible to really say what the answer is.
And really, there is no good answer to that question—because it’s the wrong question. Follow me here.
We’ve already established that sex before marriage is a sin. (God invented sex, and in marriage He is all for it.) Premarital sex is a sin not because God wants to steal our joy, but rather the opposite: He wants what is best for us, and premarital sex has many negative consequences and no long-term benefits. So before marriage, we know that sex itself definitely fits in the category of “too far.”
So when unmarried Christ-followers ask me “How far is too far?” what they generally mean is “How close to sex can we get without sinning?”
To which I might ask: “Why are you trying to get close to sin?”
Get Off the Roof
Say we’re standing on top of a building (for some reason) and you ask how close you can get to the edge. Why do you want to get close to the edge? Do you want to jump off?
Is it because getting close to the edge is exciting? There is only one reason why it is exciting: because there is a very real chance you might fall off.
If you want exciting, you could inch forward and try to balance on the very edge of the roof. I mean, that’s really exciting. Unfortunately, it is also really stupid.
Some people would respond to the question by giving advice that makes it somewhat less dangerous to get close to the edge. Like “wear shoes that give you good traction” or “have a parachute nearby.” But that still doesn’t give you any reason why you should try to get close to the edge.
The only truly wise advice I could give you is to stay as far away from the edge as possible.
The Bible says to “Flee from sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 18a). If you are fleeing something, you’re not concerned with how close you can get to it. You’re concerned with how far away you can get from it.
It is a different mindset, of trying to be as holy as possible rather than trying to get away with something.
What does that look like in a dating relationship? As I mentioned in the “Dating Decisions” talk, if your body starts preparing to have sex, then you've gone too far. You are not following God's life-giving instruction to “flee.” If that means you can’t even be in a room together alone before the honeymoon, so be it.
I know that is radically counter-cultural in today’s world, but increasingly that should be seen as a good sign—we should be radically different from this world (see Philippians 2:15, for instance). Jesus was kind of radical, when He said we shouldn’t just not murder or commit adultery; we shouldn’t even think about it (Matthew 5:21-30).
And I’m not trying to be legalistic; just pointing out what is wise, God-honoring, and in turn life-giving. Some would argue that the wise thing is to “try it before you buy it,” but that would mean you are trusting in the world’s wisdom, not God’s wisdom. Statistically, the world has a really, REALLY bad track record. I’ve experienced the consequences myself of not following God’s design in this area, and I am now confident His ways are superior.
How far is too far when it comes to trusting God? Try it and find out.
P.S. Here is an excellent graphic put together by Patrick Blocker at Watermark's Fort Worth campus that more fully shows the biblical basis for "How far is too far." Click the image below for the full-size version.