Communication was never a problem for us, and we finally came right out, talked about our sinful relationship, and set some boundaries for ourselves. Despite the boundaries we set, which basically boiled down to not doing anything together that we couldn’t do in a crowded room at a party, lust has been a constant struggle for us.
Making matters worse, we are both young soldiers stationed very far from home, leaving us both with a very limited network of trusted people readily available for spiritual support. Despite all that, we both love each other very much and want to have a Christ-centered, respectable relationship.
Recently, we broke up and agreed to some time apart with very limited telephone communication (less than once a week) and no face-to-face contact to clear our heads, get perspective on what the real problems are in our relationship, mend some spiritual wounds, and try to figure out if and how we can salvage the relationship.
A leader of a Bible study I attend recently made a comment that it is impossible for people to move backwards in a physical relationship, and I guess my question is whether or not that’s true. Is it really realistic to believe that we could reestablish godly boundaries in our relationship and prevent future sin, or are we just fooling ourselves?
It depends on what is meant by “moving backwards.” If you mean deleting it from your history, then of course you can’t “move backwards.” The events of history can’t be erased. If, on the other hand, “moving backwards” means receiving forgiveness and re-establishing the relationship on purity rather than lust, then yes, that can happen, but it won’t be easy.
There are consequences to our actions, both positive and negative. That’s at least one of God’s ways of either affirming or chastening our behavior. In your case, you’ve felt the conviction of God’s Spirit — His chastening — and have responded well in my opinion, at least in terms of practically removing yourself from the temptation. That was an important and wise step to take. But more is needed.
You mentioned that you “talked about your sinful relationship,” then set boundaries. Those practical boundaries are necessary and great, but they’re not enough to address the issues of the heart. I’m glad for the boundaries, but I’m also interested in that conversation you had. You see, talking about a sinful relationship is a good start, but at some point you’ve got to lean into God and acknowledge your sin to Him, confess to Him, ask forgiveness from Him and plead for His power to walk in purity.
And remember, your sin wasn’t merely moral sexual laxity in terms of God’s standards, but a dishonoring and mistreatment of a gift that God has given you — the gift of another person in relationship. So you not only need to ask God’s forgiveness, you also need to seek one another’s forgiveness for not respecting the precious gift God gave you in each other.
You say that you both love and (sexually) lust one another. Well, OK, I’m not sure how to parse all that out in your relationship, but let me give you some guiding thoughts. Love would be that inward feeling, sexual urges aside, that would make you want to give your very life for that other person. Physical attraction and the pleasure of touch is of course a part of that, but it goes much, much deeper than that. Lust, on the other hand, is just the desire to use someone for your own selfish pleasure, with little thought as to the other person’s feelings.
Love puts the other person’s needs before your own; lust puts yourself first. I’m not saying you shouldn’t desire one another physically — that’s part of how God made us and at least one of the purposes of that desire is to move us toward a lifelong commitment to one another in marriage. But lust is the sexual desire disconnected from thoughts of lifelong commitment; it seeks only the pleasure of self in the moment.
With those guiding concepts, take some time to think about which primarily describes your relationship: love or lust.
If you love each other, then grieve your sin, rejoice in fresh starts, lean on God for power, build accountability into your relationship, and set a course for marriage. If you were married, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. If you merely lust each other, then grieve your sin, rejoice in fresh starts, lean on God for power, and end the relationship.
Paul had the two of you in mind, both literally and metaphorically, when he said, “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” The two of you often find the will to set aside your self-interests in order to accomplish the mission of your commanding officer in the military (who knows what to teach you to reduce your risk of harm). Not only are you soldiers of the U.S. Military, you are also soldiers of Christ, and He knows exactly what is best for your welfare, both in terms of your body and your soul.
So with that in mind, let’s do one more thing. The questions you ask and answer mean everything. You’ve already answered the question of what you can do practically to avoid temptation (your answer is good: Don’t do anything together that you couldn’t do in public). But now let’s ask a different and more important question as soldiers of Christ: What can we actively and intentionally and daily do to submit ourselves and this relationship to the lordship of Christ, and delight ourselves in Him? See the subtle but significant difference? The first question focuses on avoiding something bad; the second question seeks to embrace something great (and if answered properly will also address the issues in the first question).
No, you can’t go backward in life, only forward. Incredibly, though, God can take all the scars and hurt of past relationships and use them to draw us into a more intimate knowing of Him, bring healing to our soul, and for the ashes we offer Him, give us beauty in return. Amazing.
Blessings (and thank you for your service to our country!),
Copyright 2007 John Thomas. All rights reserved.