In my time as a pastor, I have been asked many different questions.  Without a doubt, one of the most frequently asked questions is this:

So how far is too far?

In most contexts, people are asking it in relation towards dating and what is allowed physically in a relationship.

The problem with that question is that it is a self-referentially absurd question.  If you want to know the answer to this question, you are asking a bad question.  In a sense, if premarital sex or adultery is the ultimate sexual sin, you want to know how close you can get to that and still be OK.

Let’s be honest: you are asking how far you can pleasurably enjoy the things that caused Jesus to be brutally killed.

The goal is not to see how close you can get to sin.  The goal is to be holy because God is holy (1 Pet. 1:16).

We don’t want to get near sin;  we should yearn to flee from it.  The problem is that many people have never decided concerning the area of purity what is actually classified as sin.  You don’t know how far is too far.  If you don’t determine how far is too far, you will cross the line every time.  All logic is thrown out the window when we are experiencing temptation.  Temptation leads to lust; lust leads to sin; and sin leads to death (James 1:14-15).  You must determine what is off limits and what is free game when it comes to your sexual activity in college, and if you don’t have an authority to help determine the line, you will never know when to stop.

The problem is we always leave wanting something more.  We are designed that way.

If you are honest, some of you reading are already flooded with thoughts, actions, habits, and mistakes that you have committed.

  • Maybe you can’t erase the pornographic images from your mind that you stumbled upon or sought after on the Internet.
  • Maybe you left your last date ridden with guilt entertaining the idea that you went too far physically in the car, but you’re too scared to tell your date of your dilemma due to the possible repercussions.
  • Or possibly you bought into the lie that masturbation is acceptable because if you didn’t do that, you would commit a “worse” sexual sin.
  • You can’t miss your favorite television show but wouldn’t dare think of watching it with your pastor in the room.
  • Maybe you realized that modest dressing doesn’t get you attention, but as soon as you revealed some of yourself, those crushes of yours finally began to take notice.

Gradually you lowered your standards in order to keep your boyfriend or girlfriend because you don’t want to be lonely.  Maybe you have purchased a magazine you’ve got hidden, frequented a strip club, bought an internet cleaning program to destroy evidence, deliberated that oral sex wasn’t that bad, or maybe you are engaging in sex with the person you’re “going” to marry, and so it would be foolish for you to stop.

So how far is too far?  Paul gives us a hint.

In Ephesians 5:3, Paul states that among Christians there should “not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity.”

Before we study the implications of that standard, we must understand God’s heart on this issue first.

God Is More Pro-Sex Than Anybody

I thought that might get your attention, but that statement is foundationally true.  God is more pro-sex than anybody.  Who is the Creator of sex?  God.  So who should answer our questions concerning sex?  God.  So who did God create sex for?  Here is an interesting point – sex is designed to be enjoyed the fullest within the context of Christian marriage, and yet Christians are often the least likely to discuss sex.

If you grew up in church or had Christian family members, you possibly heard theology taught like this: “Sex is evil.  Sex is bad.  Save it for the person that you love.”  Isn’t that romantic?

Maybe we’ve encountered a polemical dilemma.  Sex is not evil; it is beautiful.  It is to be extremely enjoyed, and God is the one giving that gift to his children with a smile on his face.  With that gift, he gives instructions not to limit or to take away enjoyment, but his instructions concerning sex are prefaced by his heart in saying: “In order to enjoy this to the max, the way that I designed it for you to enjoy in the fullest sense, I’ve given you some guidelines.”

You must understand that your sexual desire is not sinful.  Your untimely and improper way of handling your sexual desire is sinful.

Sexual cravings are a gift from God, but to truly enjoy those cravings in the proper way, God had to set up some parameters.  You may not think that these desires are a gift currently in your single state, for they often seem like a curse due to your inability to properly satisfy those urges.

You must begin to change your philosophy concerning your sexual desires.  Sex, the way God intended, brings glory to God.  Your sexual relationship with your spouse one day is nothing less than worship to God (some of you are already shouting, “hallelujah”), but like all other things that are beautiful gifts from God, sin cheapens the gift when we choose to disobey God’s instructions.

There should not even be a hint of sexual immorality in your life.  The standard is not cultural goodness but godly holiness.  The goal is not to be better than other people on campus.  The goal is to be holy.  Any step away from God will always be too far.

Establish the Boundaries

So, you are dating someone?  How do you stay pure during this season?

As you grow closer, it is hard to remain content in your relationship before you get married.  For the ladies, the most important conversation that will take place in a relationship besides the engagement proposal, is the D.T.R. talk.  The D.T.R. is the “Define The Relationship” talk which is often dreaded by guys.  Girls want to know where the relationship is heading.  What is the guy’s future plans and goals?  What does he call her when he’s around his friends?

Guys think this conversation is not necessary.  Girls disagree with you and disagree strongly.  This conversation is sorely needed because ladies often need that security to know where they stand in their relationships.

The most important conversation for a guy to initiate is concerning how far is too far in a couple’s physical relationship.  This conversation is the E.T.B. or the “Establish The Boundaries” talk.  When I normally encourage a guy to do this with his girlfriend, he comes close to passing out.  It is an awkward conversation, but it is necessary, and the talk must be specific.

Let me explain why this talk is so important.  I will often talk with college students who are shameful of their dating relationship progressing too much sexually.  They never distinguished how far too far was in their dating relationship; therefore, they crossed it every night they were together.  The Spirit of God convicts true believer, and they both feel shameful after the incident, but since they never talk about it, they keep messing up, and they keep progressively going too far.

A buddy of mine in college got convicted concerning his physical relationship getting out of hand with his girlfriend.  He finally initiated the E.T.B. conversation, and he was heartbroken to hear his girlfriend’s response.  She was a fairly new Christian, and her boyfriend had been a Christian for many years.  When he told her his conviction, she responded, “I’ve thought what we were doing was wrong for a long time, but since I knew that you were closer to God than me, I figured I was just wrong because surely you would have stopped it if we were actually sinning.”

Ashamed and regretful, he continued the E.T.B. talk, and they got practical about establishing boundaries within their relationship.  If you are in a relationship, you need to initiate the E.T.B. talk.  The awkwardness is not nearly as uncomfortable as the regret associated with continually indulging in sin.  Get specific about what is off limits.  You probably need to set up parameters concerning how much kissing and cuddling you can do with each other.  Many couples struggle more late at night when their defense is down, so maybe you need to decide what times your date will always end by.

Many of you need to consider that you are also to flee from the very appearance of evil (1 Th. 5:22).  Not only are you not to sin, but you shouldn’t appear to be sinning.  If your girlfriend sleeps on your couch when she comes to visit you, what is causing your neighbors to think you aren’t sleeping with her?  Why would they think otherwise?  If you watch movies in your apartment together late at night with the lights off, what is keeping people who are looking for an excuse not to follow Christ to find a great excuse in your appearance of evil.  I know its hard, and you want to hang out with one another.  People are going to think what they want to, but you don’t have to help them think even worse things.  You have to decide which is more important to you: a passing moment of comfort or the expansion of the Kingdom of God on your campus?

How far is too far?  Any step away from God will always be too far.

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Travis Agnew is a Christian, husband, father, pastor, author, blogger, and religion instructor.