(Or “Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex, but You Decided to Ask Me Instead”)

Yes, all you people who instant message me, our conversations are just as likely to become blog fodder as any of my face-to-face conversations. Think about that next time you want to ask me questions like:

[12:37] s: what do you think the line is?
[12:37] Me: for what?
[12:37] Me: how far to go?
[12:37] s: yep
[12:38] Me: i think that’s the wrong question and the wrong way to look at it. mostly because it starts from the mindset (whether we want to admit it or not) or “how much can i get away with?”
[12:38] s: ok
[12:38] s: what’s the right way to look at it then?
[12:39] Me: two things (off the top of my head since my blog on the topic isn’t done and i didn’t wake up thinking about the best ways to think about sex)
[12:39] s: heh
[12:39] Me: 1) does this act respect the marriage bed
[12:40] Me: 2) how is this forming me into the person i want to be. chaste, respectful, loving, and unselfish.
[12:40] Me: how many naughty parts you touch after those two questions are on you.
[12:40] s: haha

Now, to catch us up in our conversation about sex, so far we’ve talked about: The Talk (our introduction), The Church and Sex, and Chastity as Discipline. Today, I’m going to save you some time and trouble: if you are looking for a hard and fast line, you are going to be sorely disappointed. I understand the desire to want hard and fast rules or guidelines as to how far to go. Our hearts are usually in the right place, wanting to obey God yet often being swept up in the moment. We want the clarity to know how far we can go while being obedient. We reduce God, and our spiritual walks, to some sort of cosmic killjoy, doling out dos and don’ts, because such lists make life easier since freedom is tricky. Spirituality is often messy.

The problem is that a legalistic approach to spirituality–from what to watch and what to listen to, to what naughty parts we can touch for how long–only covers outward appearances. Too many folks, as is, think that if they don’t drink, don’t cuss, don’t smoke, don’t play cards, and don’t dance, they have the hallmarks of Christianity down. I hate to break it to you, but I know many teetotalers who can’t spell Christ, much less tie their behavior to being more like him. (Legal) morality is not the point.

The tyranny of legalism is tempting because we’re talking about trying to discipline one of our strongest, and perfectly natural, drives. Part of us wants that checklist that says something like:

Holding hands – good.
Kissing – good.
Kissing with tongue – well, now you’re on a slippery slope so it depends on how long.
Petting/genital contact – bad
Any sort of behavior that leads to an orgasm (read: oral sex) – bad.
Penetration – very bad.

Two things about rules:
1. Is this how we want to live? This subliminally teaches us to be uncomfortable with our desires and our bodies. What happens is that we end up shocked when the mixed messages that we’ve been taught provide us no solid footing then our sexual drive overruns our own desire to make good choices. This sort of legalism only represses our desires, treading dangerously near the line of teaching that the desires themselves are bad – rather than accepting and disciplining those desires. You end up expending your energies on fighting the desires, which will wear you out and lead to you giving in, rather than learning methods to discipline yourself.

2. Don’t they miss the point? The other extreme of living by behavior/outside affecting rules is an “anything goes except penetration” brand of Christian hedonism. This leads to the mindset of striving to maintain “technical” virginity. There’s a lot of areas I can lick and still be okay. Again I have to ask, is what naughty bits I do or don’t touch the point?

Like I said, I’m not here to draw your line for you. I have trouble enough with my own lines. So rather than provide answers, I’ll pose a series of questions we need to be asking ourselves when it comes to drawing our lines:

-how do we maintain the integrity of our sexual relationship?
-how do we keep the marriage bed pure?
-what behaviors help you maintain this?
-how can you best protect your body while allowing you to express physical affection?

AND THEN COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR PARTNER!!! Forging your line is not done in a vacuum. Draw your line, with discernment – with clear heads not in the throes of passion. Talk to your partner so that there are no misunderstandings. If for no other reason than to be clear that you are seeking to be obedient to God’s will, not simply withholding affection. If you don’t want to stumble, you have to hold each other into account.

Because the focus on stigmatizing outward behavior only results in repression and the various hang ups that accompany it rather than godly discipline. Legalism rarely worked to guard one’s heart and mind nor drive one closer to God. Ultimately, drawing lines is about spiritual formation: how does this behavior form us and into what does it form us? Those are the questions we need to be constantly asking ourselves.

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