Man and woman kissing

The world is overwhelmingly sexualized today. Coca cola commercials involve women with bedroom eyes who tie cherry stems in a knot with their tongues. Magazine advertisements for burger joints feature provocatively posed women in bikinis. Underage models are posed in limited clothing and sexual positions. In movies, falling in love is symbolized by two people falling into bed together, and the megahit show “Game of Thrones” repeatedly had important exposition spouted in brothels with, well, what happens in brothels going on in the background. Given the overwhelmingly sexual word that they exist within, teenagers are at a massive disadvantage. Their brains have not yet finished installing the natural wiring that acts as self-control and understanding of long-term consequences, so they are exceptionally impulsive. At the same time, teenagers are drowning in the virtual tsunami of hormones commonly referred to as “puberty.”

Any parent who has a modicum of common sense does everything in their power to ensure that when their bouncing baby becomes a hormone addled teenager they do not go jumping into bed with their significant other, crush or the convenient and willing stranger they met at that party they really were not supposed to attend in the first place. Christian parents often use the Bible, their pastor, their church and every Christian resource at their disposal to help pound into their son or daughter’s head that premarital sex is a terrible idea and not worth the consequences in the slightest. This works to varying degrees depending on the approach, parent and teen. 

There are plenty of teens who are successfully steered away from premarital sex. They then, however, immediately show off their innate potentials to be excellent lawyers later in life as they begin trying to force parents and pastors to define exactly what “sexual immorality” entails. Does that mean anything goes as long as the clothes stay on? How about make out sessions? Heavy petting? Teens want a hard definition so they know exactly how far they can go with that cute girl from their math class or the hot guy who sits next to them in physics. In an effort to avoid dealing with rules-lawyering that would make both a stubborn five year old and an attorney defending a client at the Supreme Court proud, some parents and pastors simply lay down a blanket moratorium on any and all physical contact that the teen would not undertake with their sibling. 

This may be easier than dealing with a teenager who appears to have unexpectedly and abruptly developed litigation skills that would not have looked out of place in the Lincoln-Douglas debates, but it does not help Christians once they grow out of their teens. After all, well-adjusted adults are capable of controlling themselves in the presence of someone they find attractive. The slope is far, far less slippery for adults than it is for teenagers. That does not, however, stop adults from wondering the same question as their teenage counterparts. When it comes to “sexual immorality,” where is the line? Is it simply premarital sex that is off the table, or is premarital kissing really a sin as well?

Sexual immorality is one of the most frustrating terms in the Bible. It is clearly of great importance given the number of times the idea appears in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. It is, however, never clearly defined. Nowhere in the Bible — not even in the massive lists of laws that make up the vast majority of Deuteronomy, Leviticus and Numbers — is there ever a statement that says, “Sexual immorality encompasses X, Y and Z. Everything else is fair game.” Instead, the term remains undefined. Most likely, the writers of the Bible had a clear understanding of what the phrase meant. They were, after all, working off a shared cultural context. They did not need to define everything because everyone they ever expected to read it grew up in the same world. They had no way of knowing how things would change over the millennia or that there would ever be a need for them to explain things that were as clear as the fact that the sun rises in the east. 

Given the lost context, where the line is with sexual immorality is uncertain. Given that a family’s survival hinged on knowing who the father of a child was in the days before paternity tests, premarital sex was clearly off limits. Beyond that, however, there is no way to be certain. On one hand, unrelated men and women did not mix much in ancient Judea and dating did not exist. As such, it is unlikely that the disciples would have been anything but scandalized by the idea of an unmarried man and woman kissing. On the other hand, the Bible makes it clear that people routinely greeted each other with kisses, something that is still done today in many cultures. So, the disciples may not have been phased in the slightest by some kissing. There is simply no way to know. 

For modern Christians, the clearest advice the Bible has on this front comes from 1 Corinthians. Paul describes at length both sides of the argument when it comes to eating meat that has been sacrificed to idols. The bottom line appears to be that it all depends on how the Christian in question approaches the issue and who is with them. To transfer this same idea to kissing, it should be fine as long as the couple understands that it is going no farther than a kiss. If they cannot trust themselves to keep it to that or if one person feels that kissing is impure, they need to avoid it. Regardless of whether or not a person sees premarital kissing as a sin, this is still good advice to follow. After all, there is never an excuse for pushing a person beyond the level of physical intimacy they find comfortable and appropriate. Plus, if you truly have such a dearth of self-control that you are ready to start shedding clothing after a single kiss, you really have no business kissing anyone in the first place. 

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