Last updated on October 11, 2020
For two years I have been ignorant, and I have ignored what I’ve been told. I am a boy, age 18. I have a girlfriend with whom I have performed various acts. I have never fingered her or had full-blown sex with her, but I have seen her without clothing, and I have touched her and she has touched me.
We’re both Christian but with different views on the Bible. She believes that there is nothing wrong with what we did, that it is only a sin when we have full-blown sex: oral, normal, or even fingering.
For two years I have been doing it and then asking for forgiveness and doing it again because I wasn’t certain if it was or wasn’t a sin. Once we ended up naked in the same bed. We didn’t have sex, but we both agreed that it’ll never happen again.
I suppose I have to get to the question. Will God forgive me now that I have finally come to the conclusion that it is a sin? Will He still love me even though I have been ignorant in the past? How many times will He forgive me? Now that I have finally come to my conclusion, I fear He has forgotten me, and I feel as if He doesn’t listen to my prayers. Will He forgive me?
The problem appears to be that while you knew you were doing wrong, you made no effort to change. Without repentance (a change in your attitude toward sin and a change in your behavior) there can be no forgiveness. “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).
Just because a person claims to follow Christ, it doesn’t mean they are actually doing as Christ commands. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21-23).
You were doing things that you thought might be sinful, but you did them anyway, which violated a rule that Paul gave us. “The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin” (Romans 14:22-23). In other words, if you aren’t certain something is right in the eyes of God, then you should not do it until you are confident that you are doing right.
Your girlfriend is confident that what you are doing is not wrong, but she is sorely mistaken. She has concluded that fornication is wrong but assumes that anything that doesn’t fall under that category of sin is all right.
Many people want to know exactly where are the boundaries to sin. Exactly what constitutes fornication? Does it include anal sex or oral sex? “Sex” is defined to be those actions that generally lead to orgasm, and for males the release of semen. It does not have to be restricted to a man’s penis entering a woman’s vagina. Oral sex and anal sex are still acts of sex, and they still include the penis going into another person. This is how sex was literally described in the Bible: “He went in to Hagar, and she conceived” (Genesis 16:4). By this definition of sex, mutual masturbation (commonly called “hand jobs” or “fingering”) would also be included.
If we stopped there, people would conclude that as long as you didn’t commit the act of sex, anything less than that would be acceptable. That is what the Jews in Jesus’ day had concluded. They emphasized the wrongness of the actual act but ignored what leads up to that act. Jesus pointed out the fallacy of their position: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). Sin doesn’t start when you actually do something wrong, it also includes contemplating sin, such as looking at a woman wondering what she would be like in bed. “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mark 7:20-23).
Paul makes a very similar argument: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God” (I Thessalonians 4:3-5). God wants people to be set apart as something special and dedicated to God. When people are involved in fornication, they are no longer sanctified. They now are just like the rest of the world — given over to sin. They are not special, they are common. But what God wants are people who know how to practice self-control. They don’t let their physical desires control their decisions. But if fornication is wrong, then the things that lead up to a loss of self-control and fornication are just as wrong. Thus, passionate acts that arouse the desire for sex outside of marriage is also wrong. This would definitely include pornography, but what about couples sending naked pictures of themselves? They may argue that there is no harm because they are not in the same place, but it still raises the desire for fornication and can lead to a loss of self-control.
A similar passage is: “But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an 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). “Filthiness” is what is commonly called “dirty talk.” It is sexually charged talk; thus, it isn’t just visual eroticism that would be wrong, but anything that gives another person the impression that you might think fornication is acceptable. When Paul talks about “any impurity”, he is referring to a state of mind that is the opposite of holiness. “For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification” (I Thessalonians 4:7). Sometimes we refer to someone having a “dirty mind” and that is impurity. However, it also includes impure action, such as removing clothing in front of your girlfriend. Such actions signal a desire for sexual stimulation that is not proper between people who are not married.
Since fornication is wrong, attempting to stimulate a desire for sex is also wrong. “Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman” (I Corinthians 7:1). Some modern translations completely miss the point that Paul is making and translate it as “it is good for a man not to marry a woman,” which is a contradiction of other passages, such as Paul’s later statement in I Corinthians 7:28. What Paul is talking about is not sexually touching a woman to whom you are not married. Since it is wrong to have sex outside of marriage, you don’t touch another person to arouse the desire for sex. Once you do so, you cannot claim innocence when events go further than you intended and you end up engaging in sex. “So is the one who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; whoever touches her will not go unpunished” (Proverbs 6:29).
This would also include passionate kissing and touching where the couple loses themselves in sexual feelings. “Lewdness” or “sensuality” refers to shameless behavior, particularly in regards to sex. It is behavior that is involved in pure self-enjoyment or behavior characteristic of an animal. “Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Romans 13:13-14).
To put this all in more simple terms, sin doesn’t begin when fornication takes place. Fornication is the destination, and it lies on a path filled with other sins. If you don’t want to reach the destination, then you have to stay off the path. “Do not enter the path of the wicked and do not proceed in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not pass by it; turn away from it and pass on” (Proverbs 4:14-15). Instead of looking for the border and wondering how close you can get to them with crossing over, head in the opposite direction. What you and your girlfriend have been doing is seeing how close to fornication you can get without actually having your penis in her. While you are not committing fornication, you are deeply involved in sin.
God doesn’t hear the prayers of those involved in sin. “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear” (Psalms 66:18). Yes, you asked for forgiveness each time you got involved in lewd behavior, but you did not make changes to your life. Instead, told yourself that you weren’t certain, which allowed you to put off concluding that you are sinning. Yet at the same time, you knew you were sinning because you would go to God after each time to ask for forgiveness. It is prayers like these that God refuses to heed.
Now, if you are willing to change and put all you sin away — even if that means breaking up with your girlfriend if she keeps tempting you — then God will listen to your prayers and give forgiveness if you are truly a child of His (see: How to Become a Christian). It doesn’t matter how badly you sinned in the past or how often. What God wants is for you to come back to Him. “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9).
I will try my very best to stop all of this, and if it doesn’t stop, I’ll have to end my relationship with her. So am I correct if I believe that I’m forgiven when I ask Him?
If you leave your sins and you are truly a Christian, then you are able to go to God, ask for forgiveness and receive it. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).
Thank you. This helped me more than you could ever imagine.