Yesterday was part two in a two week series I taught with the middle school students on sex, dating, marriage and all that. I’ll post the audio later this week for the one or two curious. 🙂
I was annoyed with myself because I was caught somewhat off guard by a question part way through the lesson, and to be honest, I’m not happy with the answer I gave. Basically, the student asked me if I was saying that I understood the Bible to say kissing outside of marriage is wrong. I vaguely insinuated that that was what I was saying, but I mostly told some stories and didn’t really come down strong on anything, which is unusual for me.
Here’s the deal; my understanding of scripture is that God has called us to be faithful to our spouse whether we’re married to them at the time or not. In other words, when I was a teenager and a college student, the decisions I made when it came to dating ultimately impacted whether or not I was being faithful to Heather. Not everyone has that view on the topic, but for me it boils down to a theology where God operates outside of time, that in His eyes He knew the commitment we would one day make to each other and called us to be true to that commitment long before we met each other. To God, sexual purity is much more than just the one act of sex that we Americans usually think of, and when he tells us to reserve sexual activity for marriage, I truly think that speaks of anything that we would think of as cheating if I did it with someone other than my wife. In other words, if it’s not okay for me to kiss other women now, why would anything be different when I’m single in God’s eyes? In short, I do think God calls us to reserve everything, from kissing to sex and everything in between for marriage.
My struggle, though, is that that is not a standard I lived up to. And in fact, I can count on one hand how many people I know that did manage to save their first kiss with their spouse for their wedding day (and even then I’m not sure that they didn’t kiss anyone else). And when I was asked that question, there was a part of me that wondered if in calling students to such an extreme standard in the view of our culture, I would in fact leave them feeling God’s standard is impossible, or not even worth trying for. Or perhaps I would leave them feeling guilty and like a spiritual failure when they don’t follow through on such a standard. But at the same time, I don’t want to ‘give permission’ to lesser sexual behavior in the hopes that students will at least stay virgins.
Ultimately, what I missed in my response was that whether or not kissing is wrong is not the question to ponder. In reality, asking if kissing is wrong is another way of asking ‘how far is too far?’ Which of course, is the question every teenager following God wonders (whether they verbalize it or not). Which becomes an entirely different discussion – as Christians, is our goal to define where sin is and then get as close to it as we can without actually sinning, or is it to pursue holiness and purity to the best of our ability? To get as close to Christ and Christ-likeness as we can? To my understanding, those things are two different directions.
Which probably feels like another redirection or non-answer to my middle school students.