Many Christians advocate for teaching teens and young adults abstinence. They are right in doing so because the Bible teaches sexual relations between a man and a woman are reserved for marriage. But the majority of abstinence training only teaches half of the abstinence God calls for when it comes to intimate relationships between men and women.
This “half measure” abstinence that is taught in most Churches today has lead to modern practices in Christian dating that encourage emotional cruelty toward men.
I think the best way to illustrate the cruelty of so-called “Christian dating” is with a story.
A Christian dating story
Jonathan was a young Christian man raised in a conservative Baptist Church. All growing up and in his teen group he was taught that sex is for marriage.
“Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” – Hebrews 13:4 (KJV)
He memorized this passage from Hebrews and countless other passages of Scripture. He was determined that he would not have sex before marriage and prayed each day for the Holy Spirit to help him avoid sinful thoughts of trying to get any woman to have sex with him before marriage.
Jonathan attended a conservative Christian college where he felt the call of God on his life to become a minister. While he was studying for the ministry he was introduced to a beautiful young woman named Sarah. He befriended Sarah and eventually he approached her in the college library and asked her on a date.
Sarah told Jonathan that she would love to go out with him but he must agree to some things first. She told him “I believe that sex is reserved for marriage, and that includes all sexual touching. Eventually I may let you give me a peck on the lips and hold my hand but that is as far as I believe God would have us to go.” Jonathan replied “That’s great I feel the same way!” and they agree to a date the following week.
On the night of their first date as Jonathan approaches her dorm to pick her up he is nervous and excited all at the same time. He has bought her a beautiful bouquet of roses and he can’t wait to give them to her. When he sees her come out her dorm his breath is taken away by her beauty. She graciously accepts his flowers, hands them off to her girlfriend and they were off on their first date.
At the restaurant they talk and explore one another’s lives. They both want this night to never end. Afterward they go for a long walk just continuing to talk – but there is no physical contact, no holding hands. Sarah and Jonathan are both having the same thoughts – “I would sure love to hold their hand, but I know I can’t – not yet.”
Jonathan drops her off at her dorm and while he wishes he could have held her hand and kissed her good night he still had a wonderful time.
Within just a few weeks of dating Jonathan tells Sarah for the first time that he loves her and she tells him that she loves him.
Over several weeks Jonathan and Sarah continue to date and with each passing date he so wants to hold her hand and kiss her goodnight. He also finds that he really wants to do much more. Each date he begins more and more to imagine what she looks like without clothes and how wonderful it would be to touch her body. How wonderful it would be to have sex with her. But he dismisses these thoughts as wicked and sinful and asks God to forgive him each and every day several times a day.
Eventually on one date she reaches out to hold his hand to let him know that it is now ok. At the end of the night she gives him a good night peck on the lips to let him know that is ok now too. These things feel wonderful to Jonathan – but he longs for so much more with her.
Now let’s return to the beginning of Jonathan and Sarah’s relationship and look at it from Sarah’s perspective.
After that first date she was on cloud nine. As they continued to date she was fantasying about how big their wedding would be and what her dress might look like. She was imagining how many children they would have and how she would decorate her home.
The fact that he was handsome didn’t hurt either. Sarah had always worried if she would be able to find both a godly and handsome man and in Jonathan she had found both. She couldn’t wait to kiss him and hold his hand. But she made herself wait, she knew there needed to be some time. She didn’t want to give Jonathan the impression she was one of those “easy girls” or think she would do “other things” too.
Finally after several weeks of dating she felt it was time to “let herself go” and hold his hand for the very first time. At the end of the night she would give him that good night kiss she had so longed to do since ending her first date with him.
Every day he texted her and she couldn’t wait to hear about his day and to share the happenings of her day with him. Every beep of her phone was a thrill – “how will he tell me he loves me next? “When will he propose?” – She wonders. If he went several hours without texting her, she would text him to check and see how he was doing and if anything was wrong.
With each date she went on with him she was more impressed with his character and godliness more than ever. “He knows the Bible so well and loves the Lord – this is a man who could lead me, this is a man who could be my husband and the father of my children. This is a man whom I would be proud to serve as his help meet.” – This is what she thought.
Jonathan knows it will be two years before he graduates from college with his pastoral degree and then he can being looking for his first ministry as a youth pastor. He believes a man must be able to provide for his wife as Christ provides for his Church before he can marry her. He wonders how soon he should propose knowing it will be some time before they can marry.
One day he decides to “take the plunge” and even though it will still be roughly two years before he graduates and gets his first ministry job – he is going to pledge his undying love and devotion to her and the fact that he wants to marry Sarah when the time is right in a little over two years.
Jonathan takes Sarah to the nicest restaurant he can afford (based on his pay as a cook at a local restaurant). The ring he bought was only $200.00 – that is all he could afford. He gives it to her and asks her to marry him. He tells her “I know this ring is not much, but someday I will get you a much a nicer one.” She tells him “I don’t care how much the ring costs – of course I will marry you! I love you!”
Sarah gives Jonathan the biggest kiss she has ever given him – not just some peck on the lips. He takes her home to her dorm and she is on cloud nine and so is he.
Sarah runs into her dorm room and shares the wonderful news with all her girlfriends. “I am getting married!” She can’t sleep that night as she now begins to make real plans – not just fantasies of her wedding and then their beautiful life together. Her father is a wealthy man and will be able to provide her and Jonathan with nothing but a first class wedding. Her mother has many precious pieces of furniture just waiting to be hers. And the children they will have together – they will be so beautiful and he will be such a wonderful father.
She can’t wait for these two years to pass by so she can have the wedding of dreams, the husband of her dreams, the children of her dreams and the home of her dreams.
But she also thinks to herself – “But I also want to enjoy our engagement time together before we are married and I don’t want this special time we share now before we are married to be gone too quickly.”
When Jonathan gets back to his dorm room he also shares the wonderful news with his friends “She accepted!” Like Sarah Jonathan can’t sleep that night either. Except the reason he can’t sleep is very different than Sarah’s. Jonathan is thinking about that passionate kiss Sarah gave him when she accepted his marriage proposal and how in his heart he wanted so much more. He can’t stop thinking about her breasts and the curves of her hips. He can stop thinking of how sexy her tight rear end looked. He imagines how beautiful her naked body would be and how soft her body would be to touch and how wonderful it would be to have sex with her.
Then he remembers – “It is going to be two long years. How will I make it through never touching her the way I long to touch her?” He prays and asks the Lord to forgive him of his sensual thoughts about Sarah and resolves to keep his mind on pure things, and not these “impure sexual thoughts”.
Over the next couple of dates Sarah has the “wedding date topic” on her mind. But she does not want to come on too fast about it so she exercises self-control and waits three more dates before finally popping the question to Jonathan – “When do you think would be a good wedding date” and she presents a Calendar she printed out for two years in the future.
That calendar just reminds Jonathan again that his agony will be prolonged another two years. But Jonathan gives his thoughts to God and helps Sarah to pick out a wedding date. She is so excited! They take a walk through a park and Jonathan goes to give her a kiss and as they embrace he begins to move his hand down the small her back to her bottom.
Sarah is shocked! “How could he have just done that?” – She thinks. “We were having a romantic evening and we just picked out a wedding date and now he has his hands on my butt!” – Inside she is disappointed and mortified.
But in that moment she realizes “He is a sinner just like me and I should forgive him” and she gently moves his hand off her bottom and back onto the small of her back.
After they kiss she tells him “Jonathan, remember our commitment to the Lord and the fact that we want to follow his ways and wait for marriage right?” Jonathan replies “I am so sorry, I don’t know what came over me – it won’t happen again.”
But Jonathan knew exactly what was going through his mind “I want her so bad, even just to touch her bottom tonight”.
Several weeks went by without incident. Sarah felt that Jonathan had a moment of weakness but the problem was solved. Then one night as they kiss good night and embrace one another Jonathan reaches up and feels her breast. Sarah quickly pulls his hand away and asks Jonathan “Why did you do that – I thought we had an understanding?” Jonathan begins to cry – “I don’t know what is wrong with me, I am so sorry for what I did. I need to go”.
Sarah was worried about Jonathan. She texts him with no response all evening long. Finally the next morning Jonathan texts Sarah back “We need to call off the engagement and we need to break up. It is not because you would not let me touch you or have sex with you, it is because I cannot control myself when I am around you. You are intoxicating to me, and every time I am with you I think about what it would like to touch you, to see you naked and have sex with you. I need to work on myself and be a better man before I can be with any woman again”.
What went wrong with our Christian dating story?
Was it a flaw in Jonathan’s character that caused him to touch Sarah’s bottom and on a later date her breast? Or was it a flaw in something else?
The flaw was in the entire concept of modern Christian dating, the flaw was not in Jonathan’s desire for sexual intimacy with Sarah. It was not even in the pleasure he received from thinking of her body or what it would be like to touch her or have sex with her.
The flaw was with Jonathan being in that position in the first place. Being in that intimate relationship with that woman BEFORE he was married to her.
I have attended conservative Baptist Churches for most of my life. I still attend a conservative Baptist Church. I admire Bible believing churches of all Christian denominations. I also agree with many of my Bible believing Christian brethren that God designed sexual relations between a man and woman to be kept strictly within the bounds of marriage.
But I also believe that God designed emotional intimacy between a man and a woman to ALSO be kept within the bounds of marriage.
This is what is wrong with Christian dating. Christian dating tries to have a man and woman share many of the intimacies that a husband a wife share together except the physical intimacy of marriage.
The entire concept of Christian dating is flawed and encourages sin. It tells couples a lie. You can have all the emotional intimacy of marriage without the physical intimacy of marriage.
I am not saying that women are not also tempted to have sex too because I know they are. But I am sorry ladies – no matter what you say in most cases a woman’s temptation to have sex before marriage is a tiny fraction of what man’s temptation is – PERIOD.
“Christian dating” is cruel to men
Christian dating meets most of the needs of women in an intimate relationship and meets very few of the needs of a man in an intimate relationship. God never designed relationships between men and women to be half measures like this.
All forms of intimacy that exist in marriage between a man and a woman are ONLY to exist in marriage.
It is amazing to me how many Christian women will admit that a wife denying her husband sex is an act of emotional cruelty toward him but they are utterly blind to the fact that it is equally emotionally cruel to a man for him to be denied physical intimacy with a woman he sees on a regular basis while he dates her or is engaged to her. His needs before marriage are no different than his needs after marriage.
How to stop this emotional cruelty toward men
The answer to stopping this cruelty toward men is to abandon the entire of concept of Christian dating as we know it and return to a Biblical model of courtship and betrothal.
Before the last century this emotional cruelty we call “Christian dating” did not exist. For most of the history of mankind marriages were arranged and while the couple waited to be married they saw very little of one another for this very reason that I describe in the story above.
They knew that it was cruel to have a couple taste of the emotional intimacy that God gives a man and woman without them being able to express that intimacy at THE SAME TIME on a physical level as well.
The Bible gives us two ways to stop this emotional cruelty toward men
The two answers to this problem are for men to flee intimate relationships with women before marriage and only in marriage then pursue both emotional, spiritual and physical intimacy with a woman as God intended it to be.
Flee pre-marital intimate relationships
“But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” – Romans 13:14 (KJV)
“Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.” – I Corinthians 6:18 (KJV)
There are some things God tells us to fight and other things he tells us to flee. God tells us to flee from fornication – which includes pre-marital sex. God also tells us to “make no provision” – which means don’t put ourselves in a position where we would be tempted to sin.
So as a Christian man – you really should not be entering into an intimate relationship with a woman before you are married and I mean intimate on ANY level. To do so puts you in the position of being tempted to sin and as you grow closer to this woman emotionally you WILL desire her body physically. It is how God designed you.
Remember there are NO half measures with God. The intimate relationship God designed between a man and woman was meant to be an ALL or nothing proposition.
Avoid long engagements
“But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry.” – I Corinthians 7:36 (KJV)
When you as a man are prepared to take on a wife – meaning you can provide for her as the Lord expects of you, then you need to make the engagement period as short as possible.
In a previous article, “12 ways to transform modern dating into Biblical dating”, I gave several ways that Christians could date in a way that honors God. I listed several ways to “vet” a potential spouse and I made it clear that Christians need to guard their hearts when they are dating.
If we are to truly avoid emotional cruelty toward men and men being placed in highly tempting positions then Christian dating needs to be approached in a very logical and methodical manner.
A man and woman definitely need to “interview” one another and then have their families and friends interview prospective spouses. Once compatibility has been established the wedding should be planned very quickly. During this short engagement period the couple should seek pre-marital counseling with a Pastor to make sure they both fully understand and agree upon the Biblical roles of a husband and wife in marriage.
Answering the Naysayers
But shouldn’t men just learn to practice self-control as they date?
“Self-control” is something the Christian ladies often like to bring up in this discussion of dating and pre-marital sex. Often they will point to these translations of I Corinthians to bolster their claim:
“But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. “– I Corinthians 7:8 (NASB)
“You see – avoiding pre-marital sex is all about self-control, it does not mean we have to give up dating.” This is what advocates of Christian dating tell us today.
But what these same people miss is that God has clearly answered how a man can avoid pre-marital sex with a woman and self-control is not God’s answer:
“Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband… For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that….” – I Corinthians 7:1-2 & 7 (KJV)
What is God’s answer to a man avoiding pre-marital sex? Marriage. Not dating and practicing self-control, no my friends the answer is marriage.
But what about Jacob and Rachel?
In Genesis chapters 28 and 29 we see the story of Jacob and Rachel. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this story offered in some Church circles as a story of pre-marital romance.
In this account we see that Jacob’s father Isaac has sent him to journey back to the land of their family to find a wife. He comes upon his Uncle Laban’s land and meets Laban’s daughter Rachel.
The following passages from Genesis 29 are cited as evidences of pre-marital romance between Jacob and Rachel:
“And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, that Jacob went near, and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother. And Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept.” – Genesis 29:10-11 (KJV)
So we are told this was a romantic gesture – love at first sight by Jacob and a passionate embrace between the two of them. What else could this be but romantic?
Well if we look down at verse 13 we see another kiss taking place:
“And it came to pass, when Laban heard the tidings of Jacob his sister’s son, that he ran to meet him, and embraced him, and kissed him, and brought him to his house. And he told Laban all these things.” – Genesis 29:13 (KJV)
Would these same people who say Jacob’s kiss of Rachel in verse 13 was pre-marital romance say that Laban’s embrace and kiss of Jacob was romance too?
The truth is that this was the custom of family members when greeting one another. Rachel was Jacob’s kin – she was his cousin, the daughter of his mother’s brother. What he did was not an act of pre-marital romance, but rather an act of greeting toward family.
But advocates for pre-martial romance in the Bible point to this next part of the story as definitive proof for their position:
“And Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured.
And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter. And Laban said, it is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man: abide with me.
And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.” – Genesis 29:16-20 (KJV)
It says Jacob loved Rachel BEFORE they were married. It even says the seven years he worked for Laban to buy Rachel were like “but a few days” because of how much he loved her.
I can hear it now “You see Mr. BGR – if Jonathan in your story had truly loved Sarah he would have had no problem waiting those two meager years to have sex with her – Jacob waited seven years because of his love for Rachel!”
Well if you are thinking that – you would be WRONG.
Jacob did not date Rachel during this time – there is absolutely no Biblical evidence that they spent any intimate time together and in fact the customs of the day would have prohibited any intimate contact or speech between them.
In fact this story illustrates something that infuriates many women. Why did Jacob love Rachel? Was it because she had a great personality? Was it because he got to know her and connected with her emotions and her soul? Nope.
It was because she was beautiful.
“Leah was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured.” – Genesis 29:17 (KJV)
Yep. Jacob worked seven years to marry a beautiful girl whom he knew little about – only that she was a kin to him and she was hot!
This would be the equivalent of a young 18 year old man today seeing a beautiful woman, finding out she was a Christian woman associated with a good church and then asking her father for her hand in marriage. Her father tells him he must be able to support her first. So he goes out gets his degree, starts his career and then buys a house.
Seven years later he returns and finally comes back to marry the woman after having NO intimate contact with her during that time.
The story of Jacob and Rachel DOES NOT illustrate pre-marital romance in the Bible.
But Christ shares an intimate relationship with his betrothed bride, why can’t Christian men do the same?
This is a question that has been raised to me when I have discussed this subject in the past and my opposition to the invention of modern Christian dating.
I agree that the relationship of Christ to his Church is pictured as a groom to be and his betrothed bride. But it is not an identical relationship to marriage here in this world. It is not a physical relationship. It is a spiritual relationship. The relationship between Christ and the Church is emotional and spiritual. The relationship between a husband and wife is emotional, spiritual AND physical.
When a man and woman marry – they become “one flesh”, not “one spirit”, “one mind” or “one heart”. Marriage while being symbolic of a much great relationship between God and his people is a physical and temporary relationship for this world only. That is why many of the components of marriage also exist in the relationship between God and his people, but some of them do not and sex is a big one.
Because of this distinction between physical marriage in this world, and spiritual marriage to come between Christ and his Church it is not Biblically correct to say that men should submit themselves to the emotionally cruel system of Christian dating so that they can demonstrate Christ’s patience in waiting for his bride. There is no comparison between the two.
But what about pre-marital romance?
I think most Christian men if they looked objectively at God’s Word and were honest with themselves about how they feel when they are dating a woman will say that what I speaking from God’s Word is the truth.
But most women will have a very hard time swallowing this pill. The reason is that women crave and love that pre-marital romance time that we now have in our culture. Songs, movies and books are written about it.
I think if women truly stood back and looked at how what brings them so much pleasure “pre-marital romance” can at the same time bring so much emotional cruelty to their prospective husband they might rethink that position.
In a Biblical model of marriage – physical intimacy is what generates emotional intimacy. The two are to exist in marriage together, neither of them are to ever exist apart from marriage.
Three choices that are set before today’s young people
- Embrace the “full abstinence” that God’s Word shows us as the example of relationships between men and women prior to marriage. Don’t put yourself in a position where you are trying to have an emotionally intimate relationship with the opposite sex while trying to abstain from physical relations with them. This type of “hybrid” relationship is emotionally cruel to men and puts them in position to be very tempted to have sex before marriage.
- Continue the current practice of “half measure abstinence” that is taught in most Christian Churches today resulting in emotional cruelty toward men and placing them in a very compromising position where they will be tempted to sin. Continuing telling young men that they just need to “control themselves” instead of teaching BOTH young men and young women that they need to fully abstain from both emotionally intimate and physically intimate relationships with the opposite sex before marriage.
- Disobey God’s Word and leave abstinence behind completely. Engage in emotional AND physical intimacy before marriage. Many Christian young people are doing just that today. There are a lot of Christian young people that think they can have that emotionally intimate relationship with the opposite sex without physical intimacy. But not far into their relationship, many young ladies actually realize how cruel it is for a man to be in an emotionally intimate relationship with a woman yet be denied physical intimacy so they give in and give him that physical intimacy.
The sad news is that today the majority of Christian young people are choosing option 3. I know this first hand from talking to many teens and college students (my teens tell me about their friends as well) and I get emails from teens and college students all the time. But even for those Christian teens that are not choosing option 3, most of the rest are going with option 2 and the “half measure abstinence” that is emotionally cruel toward men. A tiny fraction of teens and college students are choosing Biblical Dating and Courtship over our modern style of dating.
We need to stand up and teach the truth on this issue no matter how politically incorrect it is – especially in our home and Churches. We need to return to the Biblical model of full abstinence before marriage.
See my previous post “12 ways to transform modern dating into Biblical dating” for more on this subject.