By David Moyer
As the father of a teenager, it is my responsibility and privilege to make sure that I teach him what is right and wrong (Eph. 6:4). This is especially true when it comes to the temptations of the flesh he will be encountering as he reaches maturity and adulthood.
This is my son’s first year of high school, the beginning of those years of adolescence, the start of interest in girls and, in the not-too-distant-future, the beginning of dating activities.
I remember well when I was his age – the happiness and the struggles, the tremendous pressures of a young Christian trying to do what is right when the wrong looked like so much fun! I suppose I survived those years – I’m still alive – but I still recall the tough temptations, the mistakes, the tears, and also the laughter. It was during those same high school years I met my wife. We dated, fell in love, went through the usual ups-and-downs, got married, and began our family, Now we have come full circle, and have a son nearing the age we were when we met.
So what do I say to my children to help them survive their teen years without doing something they would regret for the rest of their lives? All I can say is what is taught in the Scriptures. I can spend time with them to answer their questions with the principles found in the Word, and point them to the proper behavior which glorifies God and helps them feel good about themselves.
Dating is an acceptable method of enjoying associations with members of the opposite sex. It is a period of time when one learns about another person, and has the opportunity to make choices regarding the potential of that person to be a husband or wife for life.
Dating begins when one is somewhat attracted to another, that is, sees something in another person that is likable, or “attractive.” After the preliminary shyness and butterflies of making the date, these individuals now must decide what they are going to do while together, and this is where parental guidance is absolutely necessary. If wrong choices are made at this point, there will be haunting memories for the rest of their lives, or else the conscience will become calloused so as not to feel the guilt of the mistakes.
I want to consider some “dating behavior” in light of biblical teaching, and give answers to three questions which are often asked by teenagers, not just those in the church.
1. Is It Okay to Have Sex?
The Bible says, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Heb. 13:4). If marriage is going to be kept pure, then any sexual activity outside of that relationship is wrong, period. To understand this perfectly, a clear definition is needed. Fornication:
“Sexual intercourse between a man and woman not married to each other” (American Heritage Dictionary).
“. . . is used (a) of illicit sexual intercourse . . . it stands for, or includes, adultery” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary Of New Testament Words, Vol. 11, p. 125).
“To commit adultery, to be utterly unchaste,. . . . Every form of unchastity is included in the term” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, p. 746).
We can be crystal clear in our understanding of how God feels about any sexual conduct or activity outside of marriage. Whether it be hetero- or homo-, whether it be approved by society or not, any sexual activity outside of marriage is wrong, it is sin!
Can it be any clearer than this: “You shall not commit adultery” (Exod. 20:14)? “Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality” (Eph. 5:3). “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord (1 Cor. 6:14). “Flee sexual immorality, . . . he who sins sexually sins against his own body” (1 Cor. 6:18).
Yet for some reason people today, not only teens, argue, “But we love each other, and we plan to get married . . . someday . . . maybe.” The reason why anyone tries to justify an act that is clearly and expressly defined as sin is stated in John 3:19, “but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”
Some will even go so far as to say that pre-marital sex is okay, there’s nothing wrong with it. Young reader, do not listen to those voices. Hear what God said about those who say such things. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isa. 5:20).
Be assured of this, the Spirit speaks expressly premarital sex is a sin. Don’t make the mistake you’ll regret for all eternity.
2. If Sex Is Wrong, How About Just “Making Out”?
Let’s go back to the definitions. Lasciviousness:
“Lewd; lecherous, licentious” (American Heritage Dictionary).
“Absence of restraint, indecency, wantonness lack of self-restraint” (Fine’s, Vol. II, p. 310).
“Wanton (acts or) manners, a filthy word, indecent bodily movements, unchaste handling of males and females” (Thayer’s Lexicon, p. 79).
“Follow the inclination to sensuality, . . . indecent conduct” (Arndt and Gingrich Lexicon, p. 114).
Licentious: “Lacking moral discipline or sexual restraint; lewd” (American Heritage Dictionary).
Take a careful look at the definitions. When you touch the body of another person (other than your husband or wife) in such a way as to excitesexual desires, you are guilty of the sin of lasciviousness and licentiousness. Notice particularly the use of the phrase, “unchaste handling.” This is a reference to touching the body of another person in a sexual way.
When I was a teenager I heard my father speak of “petting.” I related that to the “petting” of my dog, stroking its back and rubbing its ears. As a kid that comparison didn’t make much sense to me, but now it does. Stroking my wife’s back and rubbing her ears takes on a whole different connotation for me now.
To “pet,” or stroke the body of another person will evoke a physical and emotional response. This is how the meaning of the definition “follow the inclination to sensuality” is applied. To touch another is appealing to the senses – it feels good, it is exciting. To continue to touch the parts of the body that promote the feeling of excitement screams out for going a little further, and a little further, and it becomes difficult if not impossible to stop.
Parents, talk with your kids about what an exciting touch is all about. Talk about how holding hands may be OK but full body hugs may be wrong – and why!
The Bible plainly says, “the works of the flesh are obvious . . . lasciviousness (debauchery) . . . they who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-21). “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires . . . because of these the wrath of God is coming” (Col. 3:5-6).
Be assured of this, the Spirit speaks expressly: touching anotherperson’s body (not your mate) in such a way that causes sexual excitement is a sin. And it could very well lead to having sex! Please don’t hand me that nonsense that you are strong enough to stop before it gets out of hand. That’s a lie of the devil. Don’t make the mistake you’ll regret for all eternity.
3. Can I Go To The Dance This Weekend?
The temptation to go to dances is often quite strong. School dances are held after all the big ballgames; the graduation is capped with a prom; even some churches are holding dances, giving the dance an air of respect.
In regards to this question we need to be careful so as not to be guilty of “throwing out the baby with the bathwater.” I don’t think we could make a blanket condemnation of everything that carries the label “dance.”
There are biblical verses which speak of dancing in favorable terms, and also in condemnatory terms.
The following verses speak of dancing in positive terms as a celebration, an outburst of joy, even an act of worship: Psalm 30:11; Ecclesiastes 3:4; Jeremiah 31:4,13; Lamentations 5:15; Matthew 11:17; Luke 15:25. Clearly there are types of dances which are not condemned in Scripture.
So what’s all the fuss about dancing? One example of the problem is found in Matthew 14:6-12. In this text a dance was used which so aroused the King that he made a fool of himself and caused the murder of John the Baptist. Clearly, something in that kind of dance was sinful. What was it?
Go back to the definition of lasciviousness: “indecent bodily movements, . . . following the inclination to sensuality.” If there is something in the dance that emphasizes certain parts of the body which tend to arouse sexual excitement, then that movement is sin! If there is something in the dance movement which stirs the mind toward thinking in terms of sensual desires, then that dance is wrong!
With this definition in mind, think of the embraces and movements of the bodies on the dance floor. Sometimes you see arms and legs intertwined that are suggestive of sexual embrace. (Does “Dirty Dancing” ring a warning bell?) Body gyrations and jiggling either practiced or observed puts a person in a position that is nothing more or less than that of sexual advertisement and suggestiveness – all set to the beat of music. (The thought crosses my mind; how would people look going through all those motions if there was no music? They would look pretty sillyl Bob Hope once remarked that “if they turned off the music the dancers would all be put in jail.”)
Now, if you think for a moment that I am only spouting the old church party line concerning the modern dance, read the following quotations spoken by leading authorities on dance:
Dancing is an exciting and pleasurable recreation as it affords a partial satisfaction to the sex impulse (Lita Hollingsworth, professor of Education, Columbia University).*
The difference between wrestling and dancing is that, in wrestling some holds are barred. I don’t think ballroom dancing will ever return to popularity. People always thought of it as a prelude to sex, but people do not need preludes anymore (Arthur Murray, famous dance instructor).**
Dances … have developed from the Twist. The feet are rooted to the spot, though there is plenty of motion, callipygian, pelvic, mammary, cranial, and gesticulary…. The youngsters . . . have parodied it into a replica of some ancient tribal puberty rite . . . the pelvis gets all the play . . ., switching sexily from side to side, while the hands make slow sensuous gestures (Time Magazine).*
Dr. E.S. Sommers, past eminent specialist in nervous disorders of Chicago and Los Angeles, spoke of the modern dance in these terms:
I flatly do charge that the modern social dancing is fundamentally sinful and evil. I charge that dancing’s charm is based entirely upon sex appeal. I charge that dancing is the most advanced and most insidious of the maneuvers preliminary to sex betrayal. It is nothing more or less than damnable, diabolical, animal, physical dissipation. Under what other shield can a man or woman, a youth or maiden so promiscuously fondle so many people of the opposite sex in a single evening or a lifetime? I am no prig or prude and so I can tell you frankly it is not safe to subject even the strongest men and woman to the subtle temptations of the dance. A trail of broken homes proves this. The physical stimulation of the dance with its fingerlings of the lowest and most primitive emotions, drugs the intellect and the spirit.**
I believe our teens need to have valid and reasonable answers to their questions as regards their dating activities. The Bible is not silent concerning these issues which so strongly affect the lives of our young people; the answers are clear. Sex outside of marriage is a sin. Touching another’s body (not your mate) in a sexual way is a sin. Dancing in such a way that either the dancer or the observer has their sensuous desires kindled is a sin.
A Christian will not participate in these activities, nor will he put himself in a situation or go to a locality where these activities will take place.
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2:11-13).
I want to teach my teenage son the dangers of the world, and I want to give him straight answers to the difficult questions he is facing. I want him to remain pure through his young years so that when he marries he will be pure and pleasing to God and his mate. Will you resolve to do the same for your children?
*Cited from: Dennis Abernathy, “Problems In Dating,” Vanguard Magazine, Vol. 3, No. 20, Oct. 28, 1977, p. 462.
“Cited in: The Voice of Evangelism, July 29, 1950, p. 238.
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 5, pp. 144-146
March 2, 1989