We have given the extra title
to synthesize its meaning and interest.
Dr Henry Cloud & Dr John Townsend
and Dave had been dating for a while. They were having fun, spending more and
more time together, sharing more thoughts and feelings, and naturally feeling
closer. They spent a lot of time together enjoying mutual interests like movies,
sports, and spiritual activities. They felt like they were falling in love.
they were becoming more affectionate also. Hugs were turning into kisses. They
enjoyed the closeness, never thinking they would get into trouble. But kisses
were turning into more desire. They were both committed to their values of
abstinence before marriage. So, always before it got too heated, they would back
off. They both felt comfortable with each other.
Their relationship went along for a while like this, until one night they went too far. They had been lying on the floor watching videos and feeling very warm and close. Beginning with innocent affection, they moved on from there.
felt as if it had happened almost without her. Her values about physical
limits before marriage were strong, but that night her values seemed to be
somewhere far away from her awareness as she got lost in the closeness with
Dave. It was a little like a whirlwind inside her head, and she really
wondered in a way how it had happened.
she felt bad, and was remorseful about having given herself away. She had had no
intention of going that far. The guilt was pretty strong, but at the same time
she felt confused. Very aware of her feelings for Dave, she began to wonder
why loving him physically was so wrong. Everything had felt so right, even if it
was wrong. Confusion and doubt began to take over in her mind. She felt herself
drifting away from him, even as she was drawn closer. Now she was feeling not at
all like her old self, and she wondered what to do from there.
let's talk. Here is the issue. You are past thirteen, single, and have a body
that is ready for sex. But you are not married. You are probably dating, find
yourself in situations where either your partner, yourself, both of you, or just
your body is saying, Go for it. What do you do? How far is too far? Why should
you wait? Are you missing out on something good and depriving yourself for no
reason? Or is there a good reason to have limits on sexual expression? What
will it hurt, you ask yourself, at the same time knowing that something is
the issue takes on meaning in your dating relationship. Will he still love you
if you say no? Or, if you really loved him, wouldn't you say yes? Or, if you are
in love, are you missing out on a natural expression that would enhance your
of these are very good questions that singles ask, and are the topic of this
chapter. Let's take a look.
Big Rule, and More
you have hung around the church for very long, you have probably heard that Cod
wants people to reserve sex for marriage. If you haven't and that is news to
you, then I can understand the shock you might be feeling. For many people, both
inside and outside of the church, it does not make sense. If it feels so good,
and is good for the relationship, and both people are consenting, then what is
many people sexual abstinence is just a religious rule that makes no sense. But
for others, it has real value from their experience in dating and the single
life. They have reaped the consequences of pain that sex out of the commitment
of marriage can bring. They feel that there are good reasons to wait. And as
clinicians who have worked with many of those who have made such a decision,
we agree. So, let's see why.
of all, let's see what the rule is, and then let's talk about it in the context
of dating. Here it is:
is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual
immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that
is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not
know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take
advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already
told you and warned you. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a
holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but
God, who gives you his Holy Spirit. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8)
this passage is not only the rule, but the reasons as well. Let's look at them
one by one.
so you don't want to wear a white robe and be a holy person. But there is more
to holiness and honor than that. Basically, holiness means purity and to be
set aside for a high purpose. Honor means that something has great weight.
Literally, when I looked up the Greek word used here for honor it means things
like dignity, precious, of high price or value, or high esteem. Basically, God
is not saying for you to become a weird person roaming in the desert who is not
romantic or sexual or passionate. He loves those things. He created them. He
wants you to have them, and he is very much like that himself.
what he begins with saying here is that sex is not a casual thing. It is holy,
set apart for a high purpose, and has great
value, dignity, and esteem. In fact, it is the highest form of expression
that you can give another person of your romantic love for him. It is the
highest value that your body possesses to give to someone you are in a romantic
relationship with. And, for that reason, like other things of high value, to
spend it casually or unwisely is foolish, and you will be cheated in the end.
You will have spent all that you have, and maybe have nothing to show for it
after the music has died.
felt that way when she and Monte broke
up. She had thought that he
was the one. He had seemed that way to her, and they had talked a
lot about being together forever. She was sure that he loved her, and he talked
about one day getting engaged, when he was really ready. What that meant
for him was when his career was a little more settled down. He wanted to be
stable in his profession before he got married and wanted to wait. It sounded
good to her. She knew that she loved him.
But he did not want to wait for sex. Marriage and commitment could be in the future, but why should they wait to enjoy each other? So they began sleeping together. After all, they would one day get married.
as this common story goes, Monte decided later that he just did not see marriage
in his immediate future. In fact, being in a relationship at that time in his
life was beginning to feel too confining to him as well. So they broke up.
was devastated. She felt as if her heart was ripped out of her. This, to her,
was not just a breakup. It was more than that. She felt as if she had lost apart
of herself when Monte left, She thought they would be together forever and she
had given all of herself to him. So she felt as if a lot of herself went away as
well. In short, she had spent it all, and was left with nothing to show for
giving herself away. She felt cheated, empty, and betrayed.
contrast, I talked to a man recently who had also found the one. They
were headed for marriage. But, having had a few experiences like Amanda, he had
decided to wait. They were planning to get married later in the year.
things began to get more serious, this man's girlfriend also decided that
marriage was not for her at that time in her life. So she broke up with him. He
was grieved, as he loved her and wanted to be with her. But, in contrast to
other times in his life, he was not broken. He was able to go through the
missing in a different way than he had before. Part of the reason he was able to
move on with his heart intact was because of his decision to not have sex. It
was as if he had held on to himself until it was safe to let go, and since it
never was safe, he had lost her, but he still had himself intact. He felt more
whole, and like he had more integrity. Why? Because sex and the heart are
is the first lesson here? It is that sex is set apart for a purpose, and has
great value. It is for lifelong commitment and needs to be esteemed. In a
physical and spiritual sense, it is all you can
give someone. Therefore, it should not be given away lightly. In the same
way that you do not give your life away to anyone but the person you marry, so
your body should belong only to the person you marry as well. It
is all you have. Don't throw it away. Give it to someone who is going to
give himself to you forever.
Self - Control
Josh had made a commitment to wait on sex. Then he started dating Marty. Funloving and spontaneous, smart and full of life, she was getting his attention. In fact, what he liked most about her was how full of life she seemed, and the way that she went after life itself.
liked her free-spirited nature, but when it came to the physical, she wanted
to go further than he felt comfortable with. He would stop their interactions,
and she would try to continue. He would tell her no and she would first get coy
and flirtatious, and then push harder. When he said no to that, she would either
get annoyed at him, or hurt, and pout.
tried to talk to her and she would say, What's the big deal? Why can't we
have a little fun? It's okay if we like each other. He talked to her
about his spiritual commitment and what he believed about sex, and she said she
agreed, but still thought it was okay if you really liked someone. He did not
quite understand her thinking.
he began to notice something. In other areas of their relationship she did the
same thing. When he would want to do something different than she wanted, she
had a difficult time respecting his wishes. He did not want to have total
control, he just wanted some mutual give-and-take. And it seemed that things
were only okay with her if they were what she wanted as well. She had a
difficult time doing what he wanted if it wasn'it her first choice.
although he loved her going for it attitude, he realized that she was
unable to be happy if she was not getting her own way, and sex was just a sign
of an overall character issue that she had in delaying gratification. He loved
her gusto for life, but it was beginning to look self-serving. It saddened him
to see, but he was being honest with himself. He could not continue with someone
who could not respect his choices and the word no.
Josh was realizing, self-control has serious implications for your life. As St.
Paul says, "Each of you should learn to control his own body"
(1 Thessalonians 4:4). Why is that important? Basically
it is a sign to you that a person is capable of delay of gratification and self
control, which are prerequisites of the ability to love. If someone
cannot delay gratification and control himself or herself in this area, what
makes you think that they can delay their own gratification in other areas of
sacrifice for you? What is going to curb the I want what I want now
mentality in the rest of life? If someone is able to respect the limit of hearing
no for sex, then that is a character sign of someone who can say no to their own
desires and hungers in order to serve a higher purpose, or to love another
fall in love with a person and think about making a real, committed relationship
with him or her. Naturally, that is going to mean some sacrifice down the road.
You are going to want to be with a person who can deny himself or herself for
the sake of the relationship in many areas. Think of the areas of sacrifice
that a relationship takes. There are sacrifices of time, when you might want to
spend time on your favorite hobby, and yet the family needs you. There are
sacrifices of money. One person may want to buy a new car, and yet the family
needs money for the home. There are sacrifices of getting one's way. One person
may want to go to one place for dinner and the others want something different.
then most importantly, there is the sacrifice that it takes to work out
conflict. One person is hurt and wants to strike back in anger or hurt, yet to
reconcile, the ability to put one's own desires aside for the sake of the
relationship is necessary. If someone does not have self control and delay of
gratification in pleasure, can they delay the gratification of getting his or
her own way in conflict?
about it. You want to be with a person who can hear and respect the no of
others. Having a boundary in sex while you are dating is a very important test
to see if the person loves you. We have all heard people refer to the line "if
you love me, you will." In reality, you should say back, If you love me,
you won't make demands that I do not feel comfortable with. Love waits and
respects, but lust must have what it wants now. Are you being loved, or are you
an object of self-serving lust? Saying no is the only way to know.
cannot overemphasize the value of your picking a person who has the ability to
delay their own gratification. If you are with someone who ultimately has to
have what they want when they want it, you are in for a long time of misery.
Choose someone who can delay gratification for the sake of you and the
relationship. To the extent that he or she says "I must have what I want
now," you are in trouble. Boundaries with sex are a sure-fire test to
know if someone loves you for you.
also teaches against passionate lust (1 Thessalonians 4:5). What does that mean?
Does it mean that God wants you to not be a passionate person with strong
desires? Not at all. In fact, he himself has a passionate desire for you. The
meaning here is a lust for that which is forbidden outside of marriage. Why is
a healthy person is someone who is integrated. What that means is that all
aspects of a person are connected and working together. Sex is connected to
love, relationship, and commitment. The body, the soul, and the mind are all
working together. Like we said above, the body is given 100 percent to someone
who gives you 100 percent of everything else. If someone has not married you,
then they have given less than 100 percent, so they get less than 100 percent
of your body. With the way that some people treat the people they are dating,
they would be lucky to get a kiss once a month, much less casual sex! We have
heard so many stories of people being used for sex when there is absolutely no
intent by the person to make a commitment. Yet 100 percent of the body is
is a very disintegrating way to live, and if you are giving yourself to
someone who is a luster and not a lover, you are headed for trouble. Lusters
are people who have divided souls, and do not develop the deeper aspects of
themselves which are necessary for a lasting relationship. Many lusters have
sexual addictions that are trying to meet deeper needs that they cannot
express in a healthy way.
found this out the hard way. She loved Steve and wanted to be with him. So she
gave in to sleeping with him. Even though it was against her values, she liked
the fact that he wanted her so desperately. But what she found was that he did
not have the ability to connect in other ways. When she would want deep talking,
or sharing of feelings, he would withdraw from her. He was unable to be
vulnerable on a level of needs or emotions. But when it came to sex, he was all
is the case with lust. It often occurs in a person who is not developing in
other areas of intimacy. Sex during dating often hides a person's lack of
relational skills, skills that are going to be needed in marriage. In all the
heat and romance of dating and sex, the inabilities in the relational realm are
never noticed. Then a person finds himself or herself serious with or marrying a
sex addict who is incapable of a real relationship. Instead of expressing
love through sex, the luster replaces love
not allow dating to be a place where you act out lust and avoid relationship.
And do not allow it to be a place where you have no boundaries with another
person and allow them to do that with you. Remember, for every sex addict, there
is someone allowing that person to continue in that pattern. Say no before it
is too late and you find yourself with a non-relational person.
terms of yourself, sexual abstinence is a great way to find out how fulfilled
you are as a person. The reason that you have acted out in a sexual way may well
have been to fulfill deep longings and hurts that are still unhealed in your
soul. There is always a need driving lust, and you do not want to allow that to
was like that. She came into counseling because of her recurring tendency to act
out sexually. She wanted to be committed to her spiritual values, but kept
finding herself sleeping around. She realized that she was unable to stop.
we began to explore the issue, I got a commitment from her to get some support
that she could call in case of an emergency, and to promise me that she
would commit to abstinence so that we could find out what was driving her to
this dangerous behavior. (The risk of HJV is higher than many realize when
engaging in promiscuity, and it does not mean anything that the person has
passed a test recently. The virus could be in the undetectable time period.)
she was dating, she found that she was especially lured by the attention that
guys would give her when they were hitting on her. She liked the chase, as it
made her feel wanted. As we worked with that, and she began to analyze the
drives and the feelings behind the sexuality, she began to see that she was
trying to compensate for some deep feelings that she had of not being wanted and
dad had left the home when she was young, and she had basically grown up without
a lot of male attention and affection. When a man would come on to her and
pursue her, she felt wanted, and it temporarily took her away from the inner
loneliness and lack of closeness she experienced with her dad. Until she felt
it again, and she was driven to another liaison.
she was dating someone more steadily, it was even tougher to say no. It seemed
that she just could not live with the risk of not having a man be attuned to
is an example of a need that drives someone into sensuality. Ephesians
tells us that along with this, there is a "continual lust for more"
(Ephesians 4:19). Lust, or uncommitted sex, will never heal the longing in your
soul for whatever is driving it. Sally needed some healthy male validation in
her life that her father never gave her. As she began to find that in a good
group and in counseling, her sexual addiction went away. She felt more whole,
more loved, and more in control of herself. She was also beginning to be more
able to pick good men to date. Her addiction was not making her choices for her
had one woman I worked with tell me once that she had spent years making
decisions about men with her crotch. As she worked through her
underlying needs, she began to make decisions based on her values instead.
are some things that drive passionate lust:
The need for intimacy and connection
The need for power
The need to feel admired and desired
The need to be free and out from under parental control (something many
adults are still under)
The need to avoid working through pain and loss
The need to overcome shame and bad feelings about oneself
you are caught up in passionate lust or with someone who is, then chances are
that these issues are not being worked out. The lust is keeping you from
integrating your soul. Just like a drug addict is not growing when he or she is
using drugs, your soul is not growing if you are acting out lust.
is what passionate lust does. It splits you from your real heart, your mind,
your values, and the life that you truly desire. Lust gains momentary pleasure
at the expense of lasting gain. You will never find the fulfillment that your
soul needs if you let your lust dictate your life and choices. Nor will you find
what you need if you give in to the lust of someone else. Giving in to a sex
addict (even though the person may not look like one) is giving yourself to
someone who is ignoring growth, and the deeper deficits of their own character.
have listened to countless stories of married women, especially, who gave
themselves to someone who could not wait, only to find out later in marriage
that the person was incapable of real relationship. Learn from their experience.
St. Paul also teaches that when sex occurs outside of marriage, someone is always wronged. Remember the verse: (1 Thessalonians 4:6). When someone sleeps with someone whom he or she is not married to, he or she is hurting that person.
is that? For all the reasons that we talked about earlier. When people sleep
together outside of marriage, here is what is happening to them.
They are splitting their soul and body. A real division takes place
inside of a person that is very difficult to repair for later relationship. The
body is given 100 percent, and the soul is only given or connected with to some
lesser degree. That requires a split in the person.
They are taking away a very precious aspect of themselves and someone
else which is of great value and esteem, and cheapening it. It becomes casual,
of lesser value, and will have less value later with someone they really care
about. In a sense, they are making casual or non lasting people as important as
the one they commit to for life.
They are causing a person to not develop deeper aspects of relatedness
and spirituality. They are potentially helping someone to remain shallow, and
making certain aspects of the person's soul unavailable for relationship.
They are coming in between a person and God. God has asked everyone to
submit their sexuality to him so that he can develop it and guide it to
marriage. Sleeping with someone causes them to disobey God and creates a barrier
between them and God.
They are helping a person deny hurt and pain, thus keeping them stuck in
an addictive cycle which sets them up for later trouble.
They are using them for their own pleasure and lust, and that is a long
way from love.
While they are using them, they are keeping them back from finding
someone who will truly value them.
They are setting them up for heartbreak and devastation if they break up
with them and leave them, having taken something so precious.
you say that you are a person of love, then you won't wrong someone you love.
You will wait. You will respect them enough to not push them or use them in this
way. And vice versa, do not allow anyone else to wrong you. Love waits to give,
but lust can't wait to get.
Paul teaches us in 1 Thessalonians where the authority for sexuality comes
from. Ultimately it does not belong to us. It belongs to God. In a sense, our
bodies are not ours, they are his. So, the question gets into a bigger realm
than just who someone is going to sleep with or not. It gets into the question
of who someone is going to obey or not.
are few better tests for whether or not someone lives a life in submission to
God than what he or she does with their sexuality. Sex is such a powerful and
meaningful desire, that to give it up and obey God in that area is a true sign
of worship. It is a true sign that someone is willing to say. "Not my will,
but Thine be done." And that becomes important for a serious reason later on.
a long-term relationship, you want to be with a person who knows that they are
not God and always places themselves in a position of submitting to God. What if
your spouse, for example, is angry and wants to punish you or strike back at
you in hurt or revenge? Or is tempted in some area of lust or addiction? Or
wants to blow off all responsibility and revert to a carefree teenage life? Or
is tempted to avoid paying taxes? If that person is the ruler of his or her own
soul, what is going to stop him?
he or she is a person who, no matter what the temptation is or desire of the
flesh, can be counted on to say, Not my will but Thine, then you are with
a safe person. If you can trust him or her to do it God's way, you will always
be a beneficiary.
if you are with a person who does it God's way only as long as that does not
interfere with his or her desires, then you are with a self-ruled person, and
you will always lose. To
the extent that any person lives to please himself and not God, others around
him lose in the long run, because when push comes to shove, that person's will
in this passage we see a litmus test for who rules one's life:
If you are with a person who says that he or she is spiritual, and yet when spirituality runs into conflict with his or her desires and the desires win, you are with a person who puts God into a category called self-made. They are not worshiping him as he is, but as they want him to be. They are recreating God into their own image. They are not adapting to him but having him adapt to them. All of these are signs of the I will submit to God as long as I agree with him club. And that is no submission at all.
as the passage says, if someone rejects this teaching, and reworks it to fit
their desires, then they are rejecting God. He wants to be accepted as he really
is, rules and all. He wants to be trusted for what he says. And when someone
rewrites his values, they are not accepting who he really is.
will be much safer with a person who fulfills one of the key things required of
mankind: ¡§to walk humbly with your God¡¨ (Micah 6:8). Such a person can in
the long run truly be trusted to look out for your interests as well. Trust a
person who trusts God. And if he or she is truly trusting God, that person will
uphold God's value of sex within marriage.
of Reasons to Say No
lest we begin to sound like church lady, we will stop preaching. We do not want
to sound like prudes, and we do not think the Bible wants you to sound or appear
that way either. Sexuality is a part of God's good creation.
as you embrace your sexuality, do so with self-control, sanctity, high esteem,
lovingly and not lustfully, sacrificially and not wronging someone, and
in submission to God. Then, when you are dating, you will have built in some
very good limits and expression of your sexual person. You will know, for
example, how far is too far. You cannot act out inappropriately with these
guidelines in place. They are appropriately confining.
if you say no to sex outside of marriage, you will be able to discover a few
crucial things while you are dating:
Does he or she want you for you, or just sex?
Is he or she capable of the other aspects of relating and intimacy, or
has this person avoided developing those by just having sex? In other words, are
you with an addict?
Is the person carrying around a lot of baggage inside that has never been
Can this person delay gratification as we mentioned above?
And, most importantly, does the person have the ability to submit to
beg you. Please find out these things before you allow someone into your heart.
We can promise you that you do not want to have someone residing in your heart
long-term who does not love you, cannot relate to you on a soul level, has a lot
of unresolved baggage, cannot delay gratification, and ignores God. And
it is difficult to keep someone out of your heart who has invaded your body. Living
according to lust, or allowing yourself to be used as the object of lust, is a
sign that a lot of things are wrong. Get those things right, and dating can lead
to some good places.
Boundary of Forgiveness
was twenty-four and disillusioned about sex in relationships. Having slept
with more guys than she even wanted to think about, she had a "what is
the use" feeling. And it started, she said, when she was fifteen. As
she put it, "Once I had made a mistake, I thought that I had already
blown it. I had not saved myself for that one person whom I would give my life
to. So, with the next boyfriend, and the ones after him, I thought, What's
the difference? I already blew it."
was before she understood the way that God looks at our failures. He does not
look at us like a piece of porcelain that, once broken, is always broken. He
looks at us all as broken people whom he makes new again. With his forgiveness,
you can start all over and be as clean as when you began.
the psalmist puts it, "As far as the east is from the west, so far has
he removed our transgressions from us" (Psalm 103:12). Or as Hebrews
puts it, "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more"
(Hebrews 10:17). And even further, "Let us draw near to God with a
sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse
us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water"
you ask God to forgive you through Jesus, he sees you as a completely new
person. You are clean, washed with pure water, and whatever you might have done
is forgotten and put away as the east is from the west. And as St. Paul says, there
is no condemnation for those who have asked for the forgiveness that Jesus
gives (Romans 8:1).
as Angie learned, your past failure does not have to doom you to further sexual
brokenness. Just because you have fallen in the past does not mean that you have
ruined yourself and cannot start over. You can become clean again. You can
become pure again. And as you do, you can commit to remaining pure and enjoying
all of the benefits of that state.
can develop the inner life and your ability to love. You can know if someone
really loves you. You can learn how to delay gratification and give to others.
You can have your underlying splits, needs, hurts, and needs healed and
fulfilled so that you will not have unsatisfying relationships. And you can
finally give up being God and allow him to be God for you.
you know you are forgiven, that clean slate is a powerful boundary. You can
stand upon that solid ground. You don't have to worry about the cracks in your
armor because of feeling dirty from the past, or a what's the use now
feeling. You have a new state of cleanness to protect, and dating can now be
about building deeper things than a one-night experience. It can be a place of
growth instead of brokenness.
ask him for that forgiveness now. If you do not know Jesus, ask him to be your
Lord. Turn to him in faith and he will cleanse you. And then walk in that state
of being guilt-free. It is a strong state indeed. And if you do, then you can
wait on the real thing.
You need a boundary against sex outside of marriage. God gives you this
boundary to protect you, and it will, in a number of ways.
Sex has a very high purpose, great value, dignity, and esteem. Do not
treat it or your sexuality lightly, failing to give it the place it deserves.
Sex is the highest way of expressing romantic love for a person;
therefore it must be reserved for the highest romantic relationship you will
have, the one with your spouse.
Keeping your sexual boundaries will let you know of the other persons
self-control, delay of gratification, ability to love sacrificially, and
willingness to submit to God.
Do not act out of lust. It prevents love, integration, and healing. And,
it guarantees relational problems.
No matter what your partner says, saying no to sex will be the only way
you find out what he or she is like when he or she has to respect a limit.
• God's forgiveness is available to anyone, no matter what you have done. It will allow you to have a clean slate and start over with good sexual boundaries.
Contents & Index