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So You Wonder How Far?

Dear Sean,

Yesterday you asked me a question that is not easy to answer, but it is a classic: "How far is too far in being physical with girls you date?"

You're not hte first guy - or girl - to struggle with that question. And the answer you come up with will automatically naswer many of the questions that follow. It will also help you keep your head clear when you're flying high in the thin air of romance.

As a starting point, I know you desire Jesus Christ to be Lord of your life in this area, so we should begin by looking at the Bible for advice. Beyond the clear warning against sexual intercourse outside of marriage, there isn't much else written in Scripture on thie subject. That's not surprising, however, because at the time it was written, Jewish men and women hardly saw each other before marriage. These days the word petting gets defined a lot of different ways.

Just so we both know what we're talking about, let's use the term to refer to touching of the breats and genitals. And concerning various specific actions like these outside marriage, the Bible is silent. Nothing is said about holding hands, kissing, hugging, French kissing, or any of the other things we would call sexual activity. All these things fall into a sort of gray area.

To work out what this means in real life, let's consider several things on at a time:

The first is the issue of getting in touch with your own (and your date's) emotions, passions, and the reasons why you do thins. Sexual arousal usually starts so slowly that you don't realize it's happening; when one person's desires begin to rise above what is right and spiritually healthy for the other person, they've crossed an important "line."

A second issue to apply to the situation is the basic biblical commandment to "love one another." I'm not talking about sex - I'm talking about the agape love found in 1 Corinthians 13 - the kind that unselfishly seeks out God's very best for a brother or sister in Christ. Before the girl you're dating is anything else, she is a child of God and special and precious in His sight.

The third key issue is to recognize that the reason physical affection between a guy and a girl is so exciting is because God designed it that way. It's a basic drive, although it's not a basic need. And it's a progressive process - one stage naturally leads to the next.

Recently, Sean, I helped a high school girl figure out a chart on this progression. I think you'll find the diagram below as interesting and helpful as it was for her:


Holding Hands


Causual kissing


Prolonged Kissing

Light Petting

Heavy Petting


You wanted an honest answer to "How far is too far?" Well, for whatever my personal opinion is worth, there it is. I don't believe most healthy Christians in a dating relationship, whatever their age, can progress much without asking for trouble. You need to realize that past this point you begin to arouse in each other desires that cannont be righteously fulfilled outside of marriage.

It's important for you to make a decision where you will draw the "line" in your dating relationships. If you've already set your standards and "drawn your lines," that's probably the only way you'll be able to make your commitment stand up in a situation requiring someserious resisiting.

Well, son, I hope I've been some help. I love you so much - as a son and as a good buddy. After you've read this and have given these ideas some thought, maybe a heart-to-heart talk about it can help fill in some of hte cracks and round off some edges. I'm ready.



By Josh McDowell