September 19, 2007

Sexual Purity and Scripture

What Does Scripture Say about Second and Third Base?

I appreciate that many teens and adults have taken a pledge to abstain from sex apart from marriage. Some make this choice primarily for health reasons while others make the choice because they honor God by obeying Scripture.

I wish that I did not have to write this embarrassing article, but everybody does not have the same definition for "sex". For example, there are a growing number of teens who pledge to abstain from coitus (genital-to-genital sexual penetration) before marriage while they compensate for their sexual desires by giving and receiving second or third base sexual favors with their sweethearts, which we will call partner masturbation or alternative sexual favors. And many married people avoid coitus apart from marriage while they compensate for their sexual desires by practicing alternative sexual favors with people other than their spouse.

Partner masturbation is the erotic manipulation of genitals apart from coitus. This erotic manipulation may involve manual fondling or oral contact or lap dancing or clothed dry humps. And the participation in these alternative sexual favors may be either heterosexual or homosexual. And in some cases, people participate in group alternative sexual favors.

Former United States President Clinton made the definition of "sex" a world headline when he claimed that the oral sexual favors performed on him by Monica Lewinsky were not part of a sexual relationship. Clinton swore under oath that he had no sexual relations with Lewinsky. Evidently, Clinton believed that his avoidance of coitus apart from marriage meant that he never had sexual relations with Lewinsky while she performed oral sexual favors on him.

I am not sure of the statistics, but I conjecture that the majority of adults in the world associate alternative sexual favors with sexual relations. And a careful study of Scripture implies that sex includes all types of sexual favors. This means that single men and women can avoid coitus without lusting for coitus and still live a sexually immoral life. Likewise, a single woman may claim that she is a virgin who kept her hymen intact, but she is unchaste herself if she participated in alternative sexual favors. And married people can avoid coitus apart from marriage and still live a sexually immoral life.

I felt challenged by people who claimed to keep their virginity while they would participate in sexual favors with their friends. Scripture is crystal clear in its commandments against sex apart from marriage. And Scripture is clear in its commandments against lusting for sex apart from marriage. But Scripture never clearly describes partner masturbation. This can lead to challenging questions. For example, someone might say, "I am a single virgin, what could be wrong when I masturbate my sweetheart?"

The lack of details in Scripture about some alternative sexual relations does not condone any alternative sexual relations. And Scripture never teaches to compensate for sexual tension by practicing masturbation. And Scripture teaches to flee any potential sexual compromise.

Romans 1:24-27 teaches about sexual immorality. Here is Romans 1:24-27:

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:24-27 NRSV)

These verses teach that sexually immoral relations degrade the body. And these verses also include the only passage in Scripture that specifically mentions lesbian sex, which is women having sex with each other. For example, Romans 1:26-27 says that some women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones, and then these relations are compared to men who committed shameful acts with other men. We mention this because lesbian sex can never possibly involve coitus, but it typically involves partner masturbation. This is a clear example of sex apart from coitus. In fact there are many who practice lesbian sex but are virgins in the sense that they never participated in coitus. These are clear examples of virgins who live sexually immoral lives. And by no means does God wink his eye at heterosexual immorality and only condemn homosexual immorality. Everybody who participates in sexual relations apart from marriage lives an immoral life.

Apart from the reference in Romans 1:24-27, the original context of Scripture implies that sexual immorality includes all sexually orgasmic relations apart from marriage. Keeping premarital virginity and marital fidelity are priceless treasures, but we are tricking ourselves and possible others if we believe that alternative forms of sexual relations apart from marriage are moral. Incidentally, this leads to an oxymoron, sexually degraded virgins or unchaste virgins.

The pledge to abstain from sex before marriage is not enough. Single people must follow through with a life of sexual abstinence except for marriage. And all people who marry must remain faithful to their spouse. And if people are widowed or divorced, they must resume abstinence. Scripture gives all humans two options to fulfill their sexuality: abstinence while single or heterosexual marriage. And if we have fallen from sexual purity, God can cleanse and restore us through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Since we are discussing partner masturbation, we also want to briefly mention self masturbation, which typically includes sexually immoral fantasies. Many Christian leaders acknowledge that most pubescent males cannot initially control themselves from practicing self masturbation. And many people who convert to Christianity from a sexually promiscuous lifestyle cannot initially control themselves from practicing self masturbation. But through devotion to God and Scripture, any devout Christian can prevail over sexually immoral fantasies that may lead to self masturbation.

We also want to briefly discuss homosexual orientations. Studies of mammals indicate that a small percent of mammals are abnormal in that they have a homosexual orientation. Various criminal and cultural and religious influences may also cause homosexual orientations. And some people have both a homosexual and a heterosexual orientation, which is a bisexual orientation. Whatever orientation we have, we need to abstain from sexual immorality. We have heard reports that some homosexuals who converted to Christianity had eventually lost their homosexual orientation. And other homosexuals who converted to Christianity did not lose their orientation but live happily in a life of sexual abstinence.

We also want to briefly discuss marital sexual relations. For those of us who marry, in private we may kiss and caress our spouse however we mutually agree. And apart from our other responsibilities in life, we have no limits in how we healthfully express our love to our spouse.

Jesus lived his earthly life to the fullest, and Jesus lived all of his life in sexual abstinence. And whether we are single part of our life or single all of our life, while we are single we may live life to the fullest in all purity. And for those of us who marry, we may live life to the fullest in all purity. And for all of us who have sinned sexually, God can cleanse and restore us to our full potential.

Additionally, to live our life to the fullest in all sexual purity, we need to prepare ourselves to say "No" to sexual advances from the dreamiest partner that could tempt us. And we must never let the dreamiest partner intentionally or unintentionally deceive us into thinking that alternative forms of sexual stimulation apart from marriage are moral. Offers and accepting offers of going to third base but not going past third base are not acceptable to God. Without this knowledge, someone may trick us into immorality.

On the other hand, offers and acceptance of offers of discreet platonic hugs are often appropriate. And platonic hugs are absolutely necessary for most people.

For many of us, the only possible way to live a life of sexual purity is to live our life close to God. The all powerful and all wise Spirit of God who created the universe and resurrected Jesus from the dead indwells the lives of all believers. And we need to live our life with the strength and guidance of the indwelling Spirit of God to conquer every temptation.

The temptation from someone offering us a sexual favor is not sin. We sin only if we accept the offer or if we let our thoughts dwell on the offer.

We also want to make sure that we are not carelessly or purposely provoking others to sexually lust for us, which is also immoral. But if we live a pure life while dressing appropriately, we are not sinning if others are lusting for us. We cannot control other people. We can only control ourselves.

If anybody struggles with sexual purity, reading relevant articles and books from a scriptural perspective may help. In some cases, counseling may help. And Scripture meditations are critical. We will end this article with quoting Titus 2:11-12 in two translations. And meditating on this passage will help any Christian to live a pure life. Here is Titus 2:11-12:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly.... (Titus 2:11-12 NRSV)

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.... (Titus 2:11-12 TNIV)

Copyright © 2007, 2008 by James Edward Goetz

The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, TODAY'S NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 2001, 2005 by International Bible Society®. Used by permission of International Bible Society®. All rights reserved worldwide.

Updated 1/27/8


Brent said...

Excellent article!!! Written very well.

James Goetz said...

This is one of my most popular articles per internet searches, but I need to clarify that I recently made a major revision of my view of sexual ethics. I published the new view at "Shades of Sexual Ethics and Amnesia".