Sex dating and relationships a fresh approach
We mark these as distinct relationships based on the observation that each relationship carries with it an explicit sexual ethic.
As you’ve noted, in our book we argue that Scripture recognizes three distinct types of male-female relationships—the “family” relationship, the “marriage” relationship, and the “neighbor” relationship (by “neighbor” we mean anyone who is neither a blood relative or a spouse).
Even within marriage there will be times when sex will not be possible for certain seasons, and such times are not made easier by fixating on sexual intimacy; to the surprise of many singles, continence will be required even in marriage!
So I don’t recommend engaged couples, still months from their wedding, spending too much time thinking or talking about sexual intimacy, or even allowing their thoughts to wander in that direction for too long.
In the context of these admonitions, sexual love does not desire to be awakened when it has no opportunity for consummation.
Since sexual activity must still be reserved for marriage, it is incumbent that an engaged couple exercise wisdom regarding the extent to which they “fan into flame” sexual desire through physical touch, spending time alone, discussing sexual intimacy, etc.
Foreplay is meant to propel us toward consummation.
And other physical activities (oral sex, fondling) are clearly sexual. We call it the “family test”: if I wouldn’t engage in x activity with a biological relative because it would be sexually inappropriate to do so, then that activity is, by definition, a sexual activity. There’s more to sexual purity than this, but framing things in this way provides a good deal of clarity regarding appropriate sexual boundaries.But it is wrong to anticipate the gift in such a way that it breeds impatience or disobedience.Three times in the Song of Songs unmarried individuals are told not “to arouse or awaken love until it so desires” (2:7, 3:5, 8:4).And this doesn’t mean only abstinence from sexual intercourse, but abstinence from all sexual activity. The problem with viewing a dating relationship as its own distinct category of relationship is that—being a modern invention—it lacks any explicit scriptural boundary regarding sexual relations.
Feeling left to our own devices, we have invented our own guidelines of sexual purity. Some are fairly conservative, while others are not.
Our typical line goes something like this: “The Bible doesn’t really speak about sexual boundaries in dating relationships, so you’ll have to prayerfully develop your own standard.” But this has been a disaster in our Christian sub-culture.