How far are you supposed to go?

When I was on staff with InterVarsity, working with college students in the '90s, one of the key issues for the guys was "How far can I go physically with a woman without breaking God's principles?"

My honest answer to the guys is that they were asking the wrong question. The right question is "How can I live in such a way to please God in my physical relationships and honor the woman I am romantically interested in?" My guess is that if you really seek God about a high-integrity lifestyle, then appropriate physical intimacy before marriage should be clear. And, God will give you the power to resist temptation.

Despite my best attempts to teach from a higher plane, guys would often press me for the "ultimate limits" when it comes to physical expression. Now, the truth is that the Bible is not clear. And Christians disagree on what is and is-not appropriate. Not only that, but there are differences based on your age and relational stage as well. (first date? serious dating? engaged? it's complicated?) If you are still living at home, then I'd suggest a conversation with your parents around what is appropriate for you.

So, I reluctantly post these guidelines. But I want you to know that my opinion is NOT that 'anything goes' besides these options. These bullets are designed as "no matter what, a pre-married couple should never go past these guidelines." In other words, these guidelines may be right for consenting-adults-who-are-engaged... but dating teenagers would be wise to throttle back much more from these limits.

So, what I want to avoid is somebody coming back and saying "Pastor Mark said that as long as you don't XYZ, then you are safe to do whatever you want." OK, I think you get it...

So here are the guidelines:
* Stay Vertical - sitting or standing is good; no horizontal positions
* All Clothes stay on
* No touching south of the beltline, or on women, south of the neckline - ya know what I mean
* Do not get alone in a house, room, apartment etc. with the lights out

So those are the lines not to cross pre-marriage, in my humble opinion. When it comes to kissing, hand-holding, linking arms, doe-sa-doeing, high-fiving and eskimo is very situational. Remember to live in such a way as to please God and honor the woman you are with.