I’m curious: Why do you want to pull back on your expressions of affection?
Your reason matters because in the heat of the moment, when your flesh desires physical affection, there is only one thing that will trump your desire and your will and that is the Spirit of God at work in you convicting you of sin and prompting you to do the will of the Father. God made us, and we are His. We belong to Him. He commands us to be pure and to follow His design for sex within marriage. Marriage was His idea, His creation, after all. But only those to whom He has revealed himself acknowledge Him and His rightful authority over them in all areas, including dating and marriage.
Apart from Him and His revelation to us through His Word, we are inclined to follow the desires of our flesh rather than His design for our flesh, as well as listen to the lies of the enemy — the father of all lies.
If your boyfriend, a self-proclaimed agnostic, has not called on the name of the Lord, has not believed in Christ’s claims about himself, has not bowed his heart in submission to Christ as Lord, then he is still living outside the will of God, with an unregenerate heart. To him, your requests for purity, if they are born out of conviction and the desire to do God’s will, not just moralism, will seem foolish.
He may, if he feels affection for you, do what you ask because he desires to please you. He may agree to your requests — your terms — if he thinks he must in order to continue dating you. But he will not have anything, or any One, above him to whom he answers, requiring this of him. Eventually, his desire will lead him to pressure you for more. That is the way of the unregenerate human heart. Before we believe in Christ and are saved, we are dead (Ephesians 2:1-3). It’s the Spirit that brings us back to life. It’s the Spirit at work in us that gives us the desire to obey God and fills us with the power to do it.
I know I’m talking in lofty terms about eternal matters, when all you asked about was what sort of kissing is OK. But how we relate in dating, and eventually marriage, transcends just the two people in a romance. There are transcendent, weighty matters at stake.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great theologian and champion of the Confessing Church in Germany during the reign of the Third Reich, said, “If you board the wrong train it is no use running along the corridor in the opposite direction.”
He, of course, wasn’t speaking about romantic relationships but about the church’s relationship with the Nazis. But the principle has broad application. If you are dating a non-believer, you have boarded the wrong train. Trying to scale back on your physical relationship will do nothing to bring it into alignment with God’s design for man and woman together in marriage. In spiritual matters, if you are alive in Christ and are dating a man who is not a believer, you are, spiritually speaking, dating a corpse. A little less French kissing will do nothing to breathe life into him.
This should be of grave concern to you. If you truly love him, your first concern should be for his eternal state. And the best way for you to point him to God, and to the truth of Christ’s claims about himself in the gospels, is to obey God’s commands. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:15-17, ESV).
Until the Father opens your boyfriend’s eyes, he will not receive the truth: the truth of God’s perfect holiness, of his own sinful state and need for redemption, of Christ’s completed work on the cross on his behalf. And until he humbles himself in light of this truth and bows down in submission to God’s authority, submitting his life to Christ’s lordship, he remains a rebel against God.
As long as this is true, it’s not simply that you should be less physical, but that you must not date him. Pray for him, by all means! But don’t date him. At all. Scripture is clear on this: “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?” (2 Corinthians 6:14-15).
The worst part of your current relationship is not how far you’ve gone physically, but who you’ve gone with. Just cutting back on the kissing is like Bonhoeffer’s man running against the direction of the train he’s riding. You must exit the train. You must end this relationship and stop dating an unbeliever. You must love God more than you love your boyfriend. That is the mark of a true believer, of a woman who is following after God with all her heart, mind, soul and strength (Matthew 22:36-38).
You asked, “Wouldn’t he not understand because he does not share the same belief, and therefore break up with me?”
That, dear friend, would be the best outcome.
May God convict you and empower you by His Holy Spirit to trust and love Him enough to obey.
Copyright 2012 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.