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How Far Is Too Far?

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How Far Is Too Far?

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Love and romance can be very exciting, and they are gifts God gives to mankind. Most people date before they decide to get married. The purpose of dating is to evaluate what kind of person you are compatible with, your likes and dislikes, how to communicate effectively and ultimately to choose, and also to be, the very best possible person to marry. Within dating are some challenges, one of the more complicated ones being “How far is too far?”

This is a very personal topic, and for many people, it can be uncomfortable. Sometimes it brings feelings of guilt, sadness or regret. Something to always keep in the forefront of your mind is that God is there with you. He knows your thoughts, and Christ is at His side advocating for you.

Approaching dating with the right mindset is essential to having a fulfilling and godly relationship. Dating and marriage are not the primary goals of our life—being like Christ is—but if marriage is a personal goal for you, there are specific godly guidelines on how to conduct yourself. Knowing your boundaries and communicating those, even before things with a guy or girl become official, is a good start. If you are already dating, it is still an important discussion to have. How far is too far? If you are at the dating age, will be approaching that age or have had this question at all, this article is for you.

Flee From Sin

Understanding the biblical perspective is essential when creating boundaries on this matter. “Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22). That word “flee” is essential to the attitude we have in matters of sin, especially sexual sin. Approaching dating with the attitude of “How far can I go before it becomes sin?” is already not a Christ-like mindset. Looking for loopholes or seeing how close you can get to the line without crossing it is not obeying the spirit of the law. Jesus Christ, our elder brother and role model, fulfills the law perfectly so that we can follow His example (Matthew 5:17-19). A pure heart does not seek sin, nor should it desire to get close to sin! It is our responsibility as believers to put on the mind and conscience of Christ and to train our minds on these matters.

A Matter of Conscience

“But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). This is a verse about being unsure if something is okay to do, but doing it anyway. Let’s apply the principle of this verse to matters of romance. If you are doubting the righteousness of your own actions, you are acting against your conscience and faith. Your conscience is a valuable tool from God that helps you discern right and wrong. It gives you that little “ping” when you approach questionable territory and actions. We build our knowledge of right and wrong from God’s instructions in the Bible and Jesus’ example of the fulfillment of those instructions. Flee from actions that “ping” your conscience and turn to God’s instruction, your parents and the ministry He ordained to take care of His Church. If you are struggling with this, you aren’t the only one. It shouldn’t be embarrassing to ask for help; God’s people want to help you.

Everyone has a mind and a conscience. You have one, and so does your boyfriend or girlfriend. We are not going to be judged only for falling into temptation ourselves, but also if we cause someone else to fall into temptation. “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come’” (Luke 17:1, New International Version). Influencing someone to go against their conscience is no small matter. It can ruin the relationship and is an extreme breach of trust. It also affects your own conscience, spirit and relationship with God. If you are with someone who thinks something is a big deal and doesn’t want to do it, pushing or convincing him or her to go against his or her conscience is not showing love. Communication is important. Being mindful of someone’s boundaries is a way to show respect and godly love. If there is a difference in opinion, use God’s Word to talk through it and understand each other.

God calls us to be His holy children, and He gives us the resources to figure out how to do that. “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you His Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8, NIV).

Affection Vs. Arousal

An area of the Bible from which we can gain wisdom is the Song of Solomon. “Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires” (Song of Solomon 8:4, NIV). This is applicable not only to the daughters of Jerusalem, but also to everyone. Think about the touching and kissing you may be doing or want to do. What is the purpose? Does it cross a line from affection into arousal?

If what you are doing is causing you to need to exert a lot of self-control to keep from going further, you are tempting yourself. You should not tempt yourself or someone else. Seeking sexual arousal is awakening love, and if you aren’t married, that is before it [love] so desires. Being affectionate and showing you care for someone is different from arousing yourself or them to want to do things that are reserved for marriage. If what you are doing is making it really hard to wait till marriage, flee from that action.

Things like making-out or touching private/sensual areas serve no purpose in godly romance except to increase arousal and desire. Those things aren’t expressions of love if done outside of marriage, and they lead to lust. Similarly, how you dress and what you say is important too. Don’t lead someone to arousal by wearing or saying sexual things; be modest in your speech and dress.

Certain areas of the body are different and are to be treated with special privacy and care. We need to recognize that these parts have an important purpose; private parts have a God-given sexual purpose. Paul elaborates on this differentiation: “And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it” (1 Corinthians 12:23-24). This teaching is an analogy between our human bodies and the body of the Church. Focusing on the former, the verse is saying that your private parts have a special honor, so treat them with care and modesty as God designed. Do not treat them the same as a hand or a leg [our presentable parts], having them visible or allowing access to them for someone who is not your husband or wife. Reserve them for their honorable purpose outlined by God, sex within marriage.

If you are doing things that lead to—or are—sexual activity outside of marriage, even if it is not sexual intercourse, you are not treating them with the dignity God designed for them. You are putting yourself and someone else in a position of lusting, which is not a righteous action. Your boyfriend or girlfriend is a potential child of God, so treat them accordingly, as one of God’s own sons or daughters. Ask yourself this: Would Jesus have been a perfect sacrifice if He had done what you are doing?


Everyone is guilty of rationalization. It is one of our best skills as humans, but it sometimes becomes a problem when we interpret God’s Word. Trying to convince yourself that certain things are okay because they are not explicitly addressed in the Bible is rationalizing and that is wrong. By doing this, you are relying on your own understanding rather than our Creator’s (see Proverbs 3:5-6).

As mentioned before, an attitude of trying to get as close as possible without explicitly disobeying the law is not Christ-like and needs to change! Jesus told us: “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). That was an instruction that was not explicitly spelled out in the law. Jesus elaborates on the law against adultery and tells us that even looking lustfully at someone disobeys the spirit of the law. He addressed it because He knows our hearts. He knows how we rationalize and tip-toe close to disobedience, so He tells us to obey the spirit of the law, not just the letter.

Managing Your Mind

Sometimes impure thoughts make their way into our heads. If you catch yourself dwelling on sexual fantasies, turn to God right away and ask Him to help you focus on something else that’s good, pure and lovely (Philippians 4:8). Many people struggle with this from time to time. Having wrong thoughts pop into your head isn’t evil and doesn’t make you an evil person. What you do with those thoughts—keeping them in your mind and dwelling on them, or turning to God and putting them out of your mind—will determine whether you commit sin or not.

Train your mind to turn to God’s way when you notice yourself in those thoughts. Turn to God, pray for wisdom and discernment and read His Word. Pray for His protection and guidance. Creating a habit of praying for help every time you catch yourself will train your mind and build your relationship with God. “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2, NIV). He will help you if you seek Him!

Pursue God

Fleeing youthful passions does not mean we must strictly avoid every fun activity of youth, but instead of pursuing the passions of the flesh, we should pursue God. Do not be so wrapped up in your boyfriend or girlfriend that it infringes on the time you spend with God. Do not allow your connection with that person to take precedence over the relationship you have with God. Do not allow your passionate feelings to push you away from God, His truth and His way.

In matters of romance, communicate with God first and use wisdom. Talk to your boyfriend or girlfriend about godly boundaries. You can have a healthy, fulfilling and godly romantic relationship, but not without boundaries. Don’t tempt each other and risk falling into sin. Flee from sin and obey the spirit of the law! Help each other to protect your purity. Reserve the gift of sex God provides us with until you have committed to each other before the Lord and witnesses in a marriage ceremony. Sex in marriage is the pure and wonderful gift God gives to husbands and wives. Seek wisdom from God, and He will not withhold Himself from you. Flee from sin, pursue God and put on the mind of Christ!

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