By creating the circumstances that ensure it. And this goes for men, too.
So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.
Avoid every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it (emphasis added).
The King James Version says, “Abstain from all appearance of evil.”
In addition to the many prohibitions against actual sexual immorality, this passage stands out because it tells us to stay away from even the appearance of evil. Why is that? I believe it’s because to avoid even what seems evil has the benefit of guarding your reputation. No one will be able to believe you’ve been up to hanky panky if you conduct yourself honorably, where all can see. If you’re never behind closed doors, so to speak, you’re not giving anyone the opportunity to wonder what you’re up to.
But also, I believe God commanded this because He knows that often the “appearance of evil” — even in the absence of actual sin — occurs in the context of circumstances where sin is more likely, or at least very accessible.
Take the most obvious example, if you hang out in bars all the time, but only ever drink Diet Coke, there’s still a good chance people will assume you’re tipping the bottle. No matter what you say you do while you’re there, people will draw certain conclusions about you based on what’s typical for that setting.
Now apply that to your dating. If you or he has a habit of sleeping over, even if it’s on the couch, people will start to assume you’re doing more than sleeping. Again, nothing may be going on, but it looks like something is. That’s “the appearance of evil,” or sin, and Scripture says to avoid it.
I know it’s tempting at this point to shift the focus to all those tongue-wagging Christians who should just mind their own business. But the Bible doesn’t give us that option. And for good reason. When you’re really honest, you have to admit that situations that most obviously lend themselves to tongue-wagging, are the very setups most likely to lead to sin.
It really is tough, as you’ve discovered, to turn off the sex drive. In fact, that’s the way God designed it. As we’ve said before on Boundless, all this touchy-feely stuff is called foreplay — it’s the on-ramp to the highway of married lovemaking. Hand holding is supposed to lead to hugging is supposed to lead to kissing is supposed to lead to fondling and, well, you get the idea. And within marriage, this progression isn’t a problem. But when you’re just dating, the momentum leads to all sorts of trouble.
So what should you do about it? Avoid it, just like Scripture advises; avoid the opportunity to get carried away. And the only way I know of to do that is to not be together alone. It sounds so old fashioned. But it really is practical. Spend time together in public places. Go on walks in beautiful parks and around the city center and take in a movie and have lunch at a restaurant and spend as much time together with each other’s families and church families and close friends and mentors as you can. If he’s the one, once you’re married you’ll have the rest of your lives to be alone together behind closed doors with jazzy music and lots of candlelight.
If you’re totally honest with yourself, you’ll realize this is the only plan that works.
Yes, rules about lines and limits are important. So is accountability. But the longest list of don’ts won’t do you much good if you’re always in your apartment at night, just the two of you.
Of course all these practical steps must follow on the heels of seeking God’s and your boyfriend’s forgiveness for your past sexual sins and your ongoing “pestering.” Then you can start fresh, with daily prayers for grace and strength to resist temptation, including the very real decisions about how and where you spend time together.
You’ve got to set the circumstances for success. And circumstances that appear wholesome and godly, usually are.
May every dating couple out there strive for this standard!
Copyright 2006 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.