How far is too far?

edge of a cliffI have worked with teenagers for the past 15 years, and one of the most popular questions kids ask in speaking of their physical relationships with their boyfriends/girlfriends is, “How far is too far?”

I can give kids my own personal answer to that question (and I do!), but I warn them that they are asking the wrong question.  God’s best for us is not that we see how perilously close we can get to sin – without technically sinning.  Our goal should not be to remain just technically pure – just barely pure.  The question should be, “How holy can I be?” in my physical relationship with my bf/gf.

I use a visual demonstration to show them the difference between these two questions.  I tape a line onto the floor, then I ask the teens to imagine the tape is a cliff.  I say, “how close can I stand to the edge of this cliff without falling over?”  Then I step up with my toes to the line – then I start inching my toes over the line, until my feet are more than half-way over as I lean back onto my heels…  Then I say, “from this position, I’m still technically not falling off the cliff.  But one slip, one loss of balance, one break in concentration – or just one strong gust of wind – and I’m doomed!”

danger cliff edgeThen I walk across the room as far from “the line” as I can, and I ask, “how close to falling over the cliff am I now?”  (Incidentally, the use of a “line” is intentional, in that kids want to know where to “draw the line” in physical relationships to remain pure!)

When I think of my own kids and their future relationships, I want so much more for them than just their technical virginity.  I don’t want them to do “everything but…”.  My plans and hopes for their lives are so much richer and deeper and fuller than that they would just barely survive with only trace amounts of their purity intact…

I think that’s analogous to the way our Heavenly Father thinks of us.  He doesn’t just want me to avoid sin in a technical, barely-made-it-through sense.  His best for me isn’t for me to see how perilously close to sinning I can come without technically sinning.  His plans and hopes for my life are so much richer and deeper and fuller than that I would just barely survive with trace amounts of my purity intact…

4 responses to “How far is too far?

  1. It seems that the question of “How Holy can I be” is definitely THE question. This question will always be met with prudish resistance, arguing that kissing is ok… (After all, Paul speaks in the New Testament of greeting each other with a “Holy Kiss”) On the logistical side of things, I’ve found that part of attaining the holiness I desire also comes with practicality. Practicality for me has come in straying from the how far can I go question and relying on what do I deem acceptable and glorifying in the eyes of God. I purposely place my “line” steps closer to holiness than I may ultimately feel the cut off is, providing myself with a safety net, of sorts. Obviously never intending to use it, however in the “everything but…” world of relationships we live on today, I’d much rather stumble onto a ledge, than fall from a cliff… From the ledge, holiness is in sight and still in grasp vs being no longer attainable. It’s kind of a reality gut check for my purity. One that keeps me accountable and hopefully buffers from the destruction of physical sin in relationships. Strive for holiness while plan for disaster, knowing that sinners, we are tempted. We are not promised to not be tempted, in fact: we know temptation will come. Pick a partner that is willing to fight with you, for you are only as strong as your weakest link, especially when one of two has to be the strong one.. Be prepared to fight back…

  2. I love this! The question shouldn’t be how close can I get to the line without crossing it, but how far away from it can I stay and still live in the world and enjoy relationships!

    I’ve seen a lot of posts lately of people expressing opinions about Prom- to attend or not attend. I’m amazed at how many parents forbid dancing or attending a prom, yet encourage their teenagers to date in typical American style, which is preparation and practice for divorce rather than preparation for a lasting marriage.

    If we send a message about guarding our heart rather than focusing on the technicalities of what is sin and what is not, we produce better fruit.

    • Yes! Brilliant input, LoAna – thanks for commenting! I’m not personally opposed to teens dating, but wow, you hit the nail on the head that it’s better prep for divorce than it is for successful marriage. Here I go old-fashioned again, but I far prefer courting to dating, as courting is intended to be prep for marriage, while dating is most often done either just for fun, or to avoid loneliness, or to try and fill some deeper underlying void (which never succeeds).

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