Thursday, September 8, 2011

Attention Adults: Boost your Boundaries!

Whoever said that we get wiser with age was a bit too quick to speak, in my opinion. Because sometimes, grownups (in the name of "maturity") can be really dumb...

So, true story...I have a decent number of friends currently rockin' the online dating scene. Gone are the days of the sketchy encounters found in "1995 Internet chat rooms," says a good friend (who recently experienced success with an eHarmony match). Obviously, there will always be people using the latest technology inappropriately, but today, the social stigma once attached to online dating seems to have, in large part, faded. Personally, I know several people who met their spouses online, not to mention those who are currently perusing match-making websites. Having been both intrigued and encouraged by their successes, I decided to have a little go myself (I'll let you know how it pans out...)  :)

While my friend's successes have been, for the most part, encouraging, I have been a little shocked at some of their fails. Not on their part so much as on the part of the (ahem) "Christian" men pursuing them. From more than a few sources, I've heard the stories of ladies who love Jesus and are striving to maintain purity, and the men they are matched with who claim to be the former, but have totally disregarded the latter. To put it so eloquently, their potentials (again, Christians) expect to get some before they "put a ring on it." You know, to see if they like it... After all (the excuse goes), "Sex is a vital part of an adult relationship. It's important to know if we are 'sexually compatible' before we get married."

What the heck kind of BS is that??? I hear this same tale over and over from a myriad of female friends (not to mention a few male friends who have had Christian girls straight up proposition them...). And frankly, the fact that this happens so frequently within Christian culture disturbs me...

What's up with the whole "picking and choosing the Scriptures you wanna follow" phenomenon? I mean, the Bible talks quite a bit about avoiding sexual immorality. It's not like there's just two little Scriptures on purity that you might accidentally skip over and could easily chalk up to Biblical ignorance if you didn't follow them. Controlling our bodies, guarding our hearts and avoiding adultery (any sex outside of the marriage covenant...including pre-marital sex) are all huge topics in the Bible. These subjects are incredibly important to God--so much so that He had absolutely no trouble making our Holy Scriptures, the most popular Book of all time, R-rated, in order to broach some of these typically taboo topics.

It's unsettling when people relegate God's Word to cutesy little Sunday School tales of morality, not regarding it as the wisdom of God and practical guide for our daily decisions that it is. Thinking the Bible is somehow outdated, some adults in the Church tend to follow their rational logic over the "suggestions" of Scripture. As Mark Driscoll paraphrases the attitude of some of his congregation in the highly-educated city of Seattle: "I don't need to listen to the Bible. I went to college!"

We laugh, but we really do think like that sometimes. Consider this: We encourage our teenagers in youth group to "Choose Abstinence", yet, if those same people are still single 10 or 15 years down the road, it is considered far more acceptable for them to be having sex (as Christians) at that point. In fact, many people expect that older Christian singles are having sex: There's something in our logic that convinces us that it is either okay or "not as bad" simply because they are mature adults. (Besides, if we truly did see a "40 year-old virgin," I think that even other Christians would tend to view that person as pathetic, instead of seeing them as a powerful example of self-control and patience).

Even within the church, we tend to give much more allowance to adults about their lifestyle choices than we do to the younger generation. Why is that? Grownups are the ones who should know better! While a teenager's choice to have sex outside of marriage is definitely sin, you could also call it youthful foolishness. If wisdom truly did come with age, you would think that single Christian adults would be THE most vigilant ones about maintaining their purity. Apparently, though, this isn't the case for a lot of them these days...

The first Christian dating book I ever read as a teenager was the widely-popular (and controversial) I Kissed Dating Goodbye. Today, I stopped to ask myself: Does that book, aimed at young people in their late teens and early twenties, have anything to say to me now as a 28 year-old single? Should a potential man in my life still ask my Dad's permission to date me (as the book suggests)? Should we go so far as to hold off on even kissing until the engagement...or even more extreme, the wedding day? Those seem like very noble and romantic ideas for 21 year-old's. But if a 30 year-old goes about dating in the same manner, people think it's weird. I'd venture to say that most single Christian adults haven't even considered the possibility of implementing such "juvenille" boundaries. They simply assume: "Of course we're going to kiss! Of course we're going to make our own decisions about dating (no outside accountability)! We are adults, after all..."

Not gonna lie, even though I'm the one writing this, this whole concept challenges me! Because I do feel that sense that I have more freedom as an adult (which, of course, is true). Yet I must remind myself that making purity a priority is important at any age. It's not an issue of maturity, but of holiness: “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as opportunity for the flesh..." (Galatians 5:13).

Ouch! Conviction, conviction...

Take the whole "No kissing until the altar" thing. (Btdubs...I have several friends who actually did achieve that goal. Even as adults in their mid to late twenties!). The purpose behind that is NOT to be legalistic, but to safeguard the future marriage bed and not allow sin a foothold into our lives. As Paul urges us, we need to have "not even a hint" of lust in our lives (Eph. 5:3). These kiss-free couples were honest enough with themselves and their significant others to admit that if they started kissing too soon, that boundary would likely be pushed further and further (into impurity before marriage). Even though I hate the cliche, I know it's completely true: "Kissing starts what kissing can't finish."

That's not just kiddie advice: That's a thought to be truly considered (the implications are pretty serious). Instead of trying to discern "How far is too far? (code for "What can I get my hands on and still be considered 'pure enough'?") when it comes to pre-marital physical boundaries, we adults should be asking different questions. You know, spiritually mature questions like: "How can I most honor God when interacting with the person I'm dating? How can I keep from "awakening love [sexual desire] before its time" (Song of Solomon 3:5)? How can I walk in true purity and holiness before the Lord?"

I recently read a blog that made a great point about how we broach the issue of purity as Christians. To summarize, the blogger pointed out that we give youth a lot of reasons not to have sex too young: You can get an STD, you can get pregnant, it can damage you emotionally, etc. But those facts, although true, aren't actually the REAL reason why singles need to stay away from sex. They need to abstain because sexual immorality is sin. That's what it comes down to above everything else. The choice to have sex outside of marriage is not one that can be based simply on age or life experience. And it's not just a nice suggestion we can take or leave if we are serious about being disciples of Christ...

So I submit that adult men and women need boundaries just as much as young people. We don't "outgrow" the need to stay pure (even if we have already had sex...). And while we might not do the whole Josh Harris-thing and postpone kissing till after the vows (differing convictions...I don't think kissing is a sin...), we DO need to be as wise, discerning and diligent in our own lives as we encourage youth to be (Titus 2).

Don't be a dumb grownup. Instead, use your maturity to exercise self-control. Show the younger people you disciple that you yourself hold to the same standard that you encourage them to strive for. That's a pretty awesome example. And a rarity in today's world...

1 comment:

  1. Very true about boundaries! BTW, as one of those 40 (actually, 42) year-old virgins, it's hard to deny the feeling of having failed (read: epically) to find and meet a bride. Peer pressure is still oh-so real; its effects are just more subtle.