Over the years, I've learned a lot of good techniques that help me avoid stumbling in sin, and I've love to share some of them with you. But before we dive in, let's get the record straight on something: When it comes to beliefs and standards, many people try to categorize everything into black and white. Something is either righteous or it's sinful, and there's no in between. I disagree with that view. I think this viewpoint is almost accurate, but it still falls short. I believe that there are absolute truths, convictions, and preferences. And what do I mean by that?
Absolute truths are the timeless, boundless truth that the Bible says, and these truths are relevant no matter how old we are, what denomination we belong to, or where we are from. We should all agree with these truths. In relation to our current topic on temptation, saying that sex before or outside of marriage is a sin is an excellent example of an absolute truth. The Bible is more than clear that sex is to kept inside marriage and thus it is a Biblical truth, an absolute truth.
But what about convictions? A good example is kissing before marriage. The Bible doesn't say we should or shouldn't kiss, so the decision is then left to our discretion. In other words, it's an issue of personal conviction. I have the conviction that I should wait till marriage to kiss. I think that if you won't kiss someone who isn't your spouse while you are married, you shouldn't do it before you are married. I also know that kissing can be hard to stop, and I don't want to put myself in a situation where I could lose control. Plus, I think saving my first kiss will just make kissing that much more special when I am married. But it's important for me to remember these are just my convictions and opinions, and that it'd be unfair to judge others who don't share my convictions.
So then what are preferences? Well, a preference is just that: a preference. I think we as Christians fight more over preferences than anything else, which truly reveals our selfish nature. Some Christians prefer hymns over contemporary worship music; some prefer small churches over big churches; some prefer working with youth over working with the elderly. These are all matters of preferences. I prefer Chick-fil-A and Sonic over fast food restaurants. I prefer alternative and punk music over rap and gospel. I prefer fun and creative dates (like going to the children's section of Barnes & Noble and reading your favorite children's books to each other) over going on a hike together. Those are things I prefer, and plenty of other people will prefer a plethora of other things. They are not worth fighting or arguing over which preference is better or worse, because they are just preferences. And just a hint: it'd be wise to learn as much about your boyfriend's or girlfriend's preferences as possible.
With our newly acquired knowledge about absolute truths, convictions, and preferences in mind, it's time to get down to business. As I said, sexual temptation has long been one of my biggest struggles. And it's such a hard thing to fight sometimes. But I think the best technique to fighting temptation is to start thinking with an eternal perspective. After all, the thing about sexual temptation is that it is a combination of impatience, curiosity, and hormones. There's honestly not much you can do about your hormones, but you can do something about your impatience and curiosity.
I choose to look at it this way: either the person you are with is who you will spend your whole life with, or that is not the person God has for you. Either way, it's best to be patient and to move slowly. It's best in the former because you have your whole lives together, so there's no need to be hasty or impatient, and it's best in the latter because you will regret it if you move too fast or if you give too much of yourself away to someone who isn't your future spouse.
A great example is that I want nothing more than to kiss my girlfriend Abby on the lips. I desire it so much, and the romantic (and the hormones) sometime just scream for me to kiss her. Even just a simple good-night kiss would be enough. But I have the conviction to wait until I am married to kiss. And let me tell you: my girlfriend is the best! Even though she doesn't share my conviction about kissing, she does respect it and she's so good about being patient. We've learned to set aside the desire and to focus on the long-term goals.
The best thing to do is to try to not make a decision you could possibly regret one day. For example, I know I would regret kissing Abby because I want to save that for my wedding, a wedding that could very possibly be ours. I've learned that you can't let your impatience and your curiosity drive you or you'll have nothing but regret and shame. So my advice is to decide what your convictions are and then to build your resolve and strength so when you are tested and tempted, you'll have it in you to say no.
I'm not going to try to tell you what is "okay" and "wrong" for you to do. I do, however, believe that the Bible says certain things are wrong and sinful. From reading Scripture, I believe that pre-marital or exra-marital sex is wrong, along with oral sex, nudity, touching/petting, and lustful thoughts. But I think the rest is up for you to decide, and it's something to talk about with your boyfriend/girlfriend. My advice is for you as a couple to decide what your convictions are so that in case you get into a moment of temptation, you'll know where you both stand. It is easier to fight temptation and hormones when you are both in sound agreement on your convictions. Here are some example questions: Should we kiss or should we wait until the wedding day? If we think kissing is okay, then what about making out? Or what about necking? What do we think about snuggling? What kind of PDA is appropriate in church? Where should our hands not go and where is it okay for them to go?
All of your decisions should be made after thoroughly studying Scripture, after spending considerable time in prayer, and after talking with your boyfriend or girlfriend. It also never hurts to ask your parents, youth pastor, or pastor for advice. Remember: don't make a decision you'll regret someday.
"Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires." ~Song of Songs 3:5