By Hope Bolinger, Crosswalk.com
Christian dating culture seems to exist in a perpetual gray territory. Since the Bible doesn’t have explicit guidelines for dating, as dating didn’t really exist during the time of the Old or New Testament, Christians now have to apply Scriptural principles to innovations of the times: including dating.
So when it comes to the idea of Christian kissing, as in sharing more than a holy kiss in a greeting (2 Corinthians 13:12), should we save our first kiss for marriage? Can we kiss before we tie the knot, and how far is too far before marriage? We’ll dive into these questions and more in this article.
What Does the Bible Say about Physical Affection?
The Bible does tell us to love one another with brotherly affection (Romans 12:10), but dating does stray beyond brotherly love. In the Greek, we’re talking about two different kinds of loves.
Phileo: Brotherly love (John 11:36). The Jews referred to this kind of brotherly love in terms of what Jesus had for his friend Lazarus. Even though Jesus technically had agape (unconditional love), Jews who believed him to be merely human attributed the highest humanly love possible to him: phileo.
But even if we are attracted to our significant other, does that mean kissing falls under eros? Or moreso, should we reserve kissing for marriage, and do we sin if we kiss before we tie the knot?
Is Kissing a Sin?
Many Christians can get into heated debates about this question, as mentioned in this article.
What really this question boils down to intentions of the heart and mind during the act of kissing. As stated in Ephesians 5:3, we should not allow even a hint of sexual immorality among God’s people.
So the question really is: do you personally believe kissing before marriage falls under sexual impurity as outlined in that verse?
Some might point out that we do, in fact, kiss our family members. This might be a quick peck as a hello or a goodbye. But a passionate tongue-kiss or makeout session is likely not how we are greeting our family members.
A quick peck might fall under the category of phileo love, depending on each person, but a long kiss marked with sensuality is certianly in the eros cateogory.
To answer this question we should look at temptations we or our partner may face. If either have a previous history with sexual temptation, we may want to avoid activities such as kissing that can prompt sexual thoughts or sexual feelings.
As with many acts that aren’t inherently evil, but can lead to temptation, we should look to the example Paul had mentioned in 1 Corinthians 8. Many Christians would buy meat from temples known for sacrificing to pagan gods. Although some believers didn’t see any harm in the meat, others had superstitions that the meat carried evil spirits.
Paul told the Christians not to serve the meat to those believers who thought eating that meat was sinful, to help them avoid temptation. What was tempting for Christian A wasn’t tempting for Christian B.
In the same way, Christians have differing views on alcohol. Some view it as fine in moderation (Communion, etc.), others, especially those who struggle with alcohol abuse, will avoid it at all costs to avoid taking the alcohol too far. To help them avoid temptation, we would avoid serving them the beverage at social gatherings.
In the same way, couples should establish temptations they may struggle with when talking about kissing and other acts of intimacy. If someone struggles with sexual sin, they should avoid putting themselves in a compromised mindset.
Is Cuddling a Sin?
The same principle from above applies to this question, and other intimate acts that could lead one to thinking or acting on sexual temptations.
The more intimate the act, the more likely one can fall into temptation.
So is imagining kissing a sin? Is having a boyfriend a sin in Christianity? Is kissing a fiance before marriage a sin?
When tackling all these questions, we have to apply the same tests from above. Is this phsycial affection an act of eros love? Will this particular act cause us to fall into temptation or sin? If so, we should avoid it. Jesus did metaphorically tell us to pluck our eye out if it causes us to sin (Matthew 5:29).
How Intimate Should Christian Couples Become before Marriage?
So what’s the point of dating? What level of intimacy can Christians reach before they’ve fallen into sexual sin?
That varies from dating relationship to dating relationship. Some Christians don’t even hold hands until marriage, whereas others regularly kiss a boyfriend or girlfriend. The matter at hand is, again, the hearts of those involved. Are these acts of affection done with a clear conscience before God?
Here, we have to establish the point of dating and how it differs from marriage.
In dating, we seek to know more about a person we can potentially see as a marriage partner. We don’t implement dating as a tool to engage in the bond of intimacy. We reserve that for marriage alone.
But why? Why do we have to wait? Does God just want to see us unhappy until we slip a ring on our significant other’s finger?
No. We have to understand that we chemically bond with someone when we get intimate with them. The Bible has a phrase for it: two becoming one flesh (Mark 10:8). So when we break off a relationship with someone whom we got intimate, it hurts. It rips us apart on a chemical and physical level.
God wants us to avoid this bonding before marriage because he wants us to avoid the massive pain and hurt that follows from a severed relationship. Intimacy is reserved for the safety of the marrige covenant, where both parties have sworn faithfulness and unconditional love before God. Intimacy is vulnerable, and God's heart is to protect us and to protect the sanctity of marriage.
Romance and Christianity
So should we bring arranged marriages back and avoid even eye contact for the sake of purity?
By no means. We should also keep in mind that romance is a reflection of God’s heart for his people. He has given us romance as a gift, as a way to selflessly give of ourselves unto others, to understand how Christ gives of himself to the church (Ephesians 5).
But we do have to understand that intimacy is reserved solely for a marriage covenant relationship. To avoid the hurt that comes from severing a bond between two becoming one, we reserve those acts under the covenant of marriage: where two people vow to become one until death does them part.
As for finding the balance between showing affection to someone whom we can see a future with, and avoiding going too far can differ from Christian to Christian. Early on into the relationship, if you see a potential future with the person whom you’ve chosen to date, make sure to establish boundaries early on.
On a personal note, with one of the men I dated, I had established the boundary that I wanted to save my first kiss for marriage. We ended up ignoring that boundary, and I can’t get that first kiss back. So if someone has a boundary, make sure to respect it. For instance, if someone does not want to kiss until marriage, don’t pressure them to do so until the day of the wedding.
And in all things, let’s avoid causing fellow brothers and sisters stumble, in whatever temptation they may face.
Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a recent graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 450 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column "Hope's Hacks," tips and tricks to avoid writer's block, reaches 6,000+ readers weekly in the Serious Writer newsletter. Her modern-day Daniel, “Blaze,” (Illuminate YA) released in June, and they contracted the sequel “Den” for July 2020. Find out more about her here.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/AntonioGuillem
Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 600 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column "Hope's Hacks," tips and tricks to avoid writer's block, reaches 6,000+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young's blog. Her modern-day Daniel, Blaze, (Illuminate YA) Den (releasing July 2020), Dear Hero (releasing September 2020), and Dear Henchman (releasing 2021) Find out more about her here.