Last updated on March 27, 2023
Recently, one of my good friends from my school has started talking to me about some things that he has been doing with his girlfriend that I absolutely and unequivocally know are sinful. He has not had sex ‘proper’, i.e. put himself into her, but they have essentially done everything else under the sun except that.
I’m assuming he knows this is wrong because he keeps talking to me about it and asking if I really think it’s sinful. But then he keeps asking me to pull out Bible verses that condemn his actions. I reference 1 Corinthians 6 which condemns fornicators and tells him that Jesus didn’t even want Christian men to lust inwardly as He says in Matthew. But my friend just blows this off saying that he isn’t lusting, this is a show of their love, and doing these actions actually help him from pursuing other sinful actions like masturbation or sleeping around.
I am terrified that I am going to lose him to this until he is too far gone and has deadened his conscience to the point he loses what small remorse he has. I’ve urged him to talk with his youth pastor (he goes to a Baptist megachurch), but he says that his youth group is so big that he doesn’t really know him that well. So then I offer for him to talk to my own minister (I go to a much smaller Church of Christ), but he says he isn’t comfortable talking with anyone else but me one this. His father is divorced from his mother and is hardly in the picture. How can I help him? I desperately want to see him saved and get that real, lasting connection that Christ gives us.
You can start by sharing the following with him. He is also welcome to talk to me if he would like more information.
A good portion of the problem is terminology. Your friend wants to claim that so long as he has not put his penis into his girlfriend that he hasn’t sinned — or at least he wants to say that — but he suspects that he is sinning. Therefore, we will start with definitions.
Having sex without marriage is the word porneia in the original Greek of the New Testament. It is translated as fornication, but many of the newer translations use “sexual immorality” or just plain “immorality” because the translators think “fornication” is too old of a word and not often used. Unfortunately, “sexual immorality” and “immorality” are too vague. They don’t capture the meaning of the word well. For a list of sexual terms in the Bible and their meaning, see: Sex. Dictionaries include homosexuality and lesbianism under the category of porneia. That is because when anal sex is involved with homosexual men, the penis is entering the anus. If oral sex is involved, then penis is entering the mouth or the tongue is entering the vagina. That is why in English “sex” is included in the description of oral and anal sex. But because another person is bringing a person to orgasm and ejaculation, both oral sex and mutual masturbation would be properly included under the term “fornication.”
Now that we understand the meaning of the term, we can see whether it is bad. In this, we’ll let God answer:
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God” (I Corinthians 6:9-10).
“Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4).
The word “bed” in Hebrews 13:4 is translating the Greek word koite. It literally means “bed” and it is where we get our English word “cot” from, but the Greeks used the word the same we say “Jack was sleeping was Jane.” You know that Jack and Jane weren’t just sleeping, they were having sex. By the way, we get our word “coitus” from this same word. “Coitus” is the act of penis entering the vagina.
Now this should lead to the question of why God said it is wrong. God doesn’t make arbitrary rules. The laws He gives are there to make life better. Therefore, there are things about having sex without marriage that makes life bad. For an answer see:
One of the problems, when sex enters a relationship, is that it dominates it. Everything revolves around sex and the relationship stops developing. Ultimately the relationship falls apart because sex is not enough to hold it together. I suspect that your friend is aware of this. Every time he sees his girlfriend, the number one thought is what sexual thing can he do and how quickly can he get their clothes off.
If you understand that you may not have intercourse before marriage, the next question is what about the things done prior to intercourse? Can you do anything so long as your penis doesn’t enter her vagina?
The first problem is restraint. Most young people discount too heavily the strength of their sexual instinct. This is why I constantly get notes from people saying, “I didn’t mean for it to go this far,” “I don’t know what happened,” or “It was an accident.” Such statements aren’t just lame excuses. They are the responses of someone who didn’t have a healthy respect for the strength of his sexual instinct.
Solomon points out the problem when he asked, “Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?” (Proverbs 6:27). You can show a hot coal all the affection you want. You can cuddle it and dote on it and it will still burn you. Your kindness to it doesn’t change its nature. How often do you hear someone say, “But I love her!” Solomon’s point is that your feelings toward your girlfriend won’t change the fact that both of you have built-in desires and capabilities for sex. Trigger them and they follow the instincts built into you.
Solomon also asked, “Can one walk on hot coals, and his feet not be seared?” (Proverbs 6:28). Using the same example of hot coal, if you walk on it, it will burn you. You can apologize and say you didn’t mean to step on it, but you’ll still be hurt because your intentions don’t change what it is. Thus, the excuse, “But I didn’t mean for it to go this far!” becomes an empty one because your intentions don’t change your body’s drive.
That is why Solomon concludes, “So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; whoever touches her shall not be innocent” (Proverbs 6:29). Though he is talking directly about adultery, the same point is true about fornication. When you start stirring up sexual feelings, you are never innocent when things go further than you wanted and your penis slides into your girlfriend.
That is why we are told not to make room for lust and lewdness. “Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Romans 13:13-14).
Lust is those thoughts and desires you keep battling about taking things even further. Your friend wants to claim lust is not involved because he loves his girlfriend. However, lust is a strong desire to do what is not lawful to do — to the point you are making excuses why it is alright to sin in some cases. If your friend was honest with himself, he badly wants to have sex with his girlfriend. That is why he has been doing these things with her. And he is justifying what he knows is sinful by claiming it is “love.” Therefore, he is involved in lust.
Lewdness is engaging in sexual foreplay that gets the body ready for intercourse. It is acting like an animal with little or no restraint on behavior. The Christian must recognize the danger of lewdness and not start a sequence of events that can’t be legitimately completed.
Rules, then, are needed so that you don’t start down a sinful path. No touching each other’s private areas. No stroking skin to get you or her sexually aroused. No long passionate kisses that leave you out of your mind. You have to treat each other with respect and not as sexual objects. “Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman” (I Corinthians 7:1).
With that comes not talking dirty or showing nude or semi-nude pictures to each other. “But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them” (Ephesians 5:3-7). You don’t stay pure by sexually arousing the other person.
Yes, you feel close to her when your sexual passion is aroused. Instinct drives you to focus on her and your feelings. But at this point in time, your focus should be on your friendship. The sexual stuff will come after you commit yourself to marriage to her.
I find it odd that your friend justifies his lewd behavior and fornication by saying that it keeps him from having sex with other girls. If it is wrong with other girls, then he knows it is wrong to do the same with his girlfriend. He also claims it keeps him from masturbating, but that is something the Bible doesn’t say is wrong if it is done by itself without pornography. See:
- Is it normal to masturbate?
- I’m still confused about masturbation. Is it right or wrong?
- Is masturbation sinful or not?
What I see is a young man who is justifying sin by claiming it is keeping him from sin. Such is never right.