Written By Ryan Walters
“Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness and inordinate affection.”
The term ‘propriety’ can be interpreted as staying within the lines of socially-acceptable behavior. Some would agree what is acceptable is instituted within humanity of our culture and society. After all, government has laid down come clear rules and regulations for citizens to abide by. Well if that’s true, should we follow the standards of yesterday’s culture or today’s culture? Should we be the sheep of all officials and leaders or do we hand pick only the ones we like and endorse according to our personal biases? Do we do our homework and pick the nation that has the policies most suited for us? And so on…
To me anyway, this seems so unclear. The abundance of options of obliging to particular laws and people is kind of overwhelming. It also seems to be so self-oriented. Whatever I support. Whoever I support. It’s all based off of my wishes really. A bunch of decisions founded upon individualism. Is it any wonder that at several moments a day a believer finds him or herself wondering, “Does God still run this show?” Is He still in supreme control over what’s going on down here? Or as the children’s Sunday school song states, “does He still have the whole world in His hands?”
This may be the earthly world God created in the beginning but His eternal Kingdom and paradise is heaven. This world isn’t meant to last; it’s more like a training grounds for His followers (2 Cor. 4). It’s the segment of the story where we prove our faith and demonstrate by our demeanor who we choose to follow: the flesh composed of selfishness, pride & ‘ego-this or ego-that’ or Christ– the Divine image of what love really looks like; the ultimate picture of hope.
Now the term propriety could be stretched from Mississippi to North Korea with all the subjects it pertains to. But seeing I am a twenty-three year old caught up in this generation of youth, constantly cognizant and attentive to what pieces of God’s design are being corrupted day in and day out, I’d say the topic of affection in pre-marital relationships catches my eye more than just a few times per day. What is supposedly ‘modesty in relationships’ today is displayed everywhere. Unless you live under a rock with Patrick Star, you’re going to take notice of what society & culture is endorsing. It’s virtually inescapable. And by the way, living underneath that rock of yours isn’t a solution & it’s certainly not helping downward spiral trends…
Modern propriety of pre-marital affection is glamorized in PG-13 Hollywood films, Abercrombie advertisements, fictional romantic books found in Barnes & Noble, what’s being heard on FM radio, everyday behaviors of young celebrities like Miley Cyrus, school hallways, sweet sixteen slumber party conversations, etc. What are some examples you and I witness on the daily? Holding hands in the park, making out at the movie theatre or getting dirty in the backseat of the car late at night, right?
At this point you may be wondering if I’m the goodie two-shoes Christian who has never dated because I’m waiting for “the one” or a hypocritical Christian who wants to crucify everyone who has engaged in sexual immorality. Well the answer is neither. For one, I’ve been that guy in those previous examples. I’ve had my fair share of what this world calls “innocent, harmless fun” (Though in reality as I came to find, none of it was actually harmless). I’d kill to travel in time to sixteen and start all over again. The pain that I caused. The shame I endured. Most people think it’s irreplaceable. They say you’ll live with those regrets forever. Not entirely true. I mean, I’ve chosen forgiveness from God to move past my past. I’ve shifted from fornication to new creation (Rom. 4:6-8). My sin got replaced and substituted with love that can’t be matched by any form of touch.
Does that mean I refrain completely from ever looking back? Ugh. I wish. Healing from sexual immorality is a lengthy process full of weak and vulnerable moments to engage in those old lustful thoughts and images all over again. It’s like reliving my sin but mentally not physically. Every time I get sucked in, I feel guilty. I feel crappy. Quite honestly, I feel like the center of violation. Romans 6:21 defines precisely my heart’s cry during these moments: “you are now ashamed of the things you used to do”.
And on each occasion I find myself back on my knees again praying and asking to be cleansed. Each occasion there is a blip of sensing I am breaking my Father’s heart. Disobeying with change nowhere near in sight. But it’s verses like 1 John 3:6 that convict me to the depths of my heart: “…But anyone who keeps on sinning does not know God or understand who He is”.
Accepting forgiveness for our sin is one thing but repenting from our sin, declaring we’re going to make a conscious effort to not stumble into it, is another. 2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin”. But don’t go thinking you’ll be perfect right off the bat. Once we’ve given in to a sin especially like sexual immorality it is awfully hard to eliminate that behavior. You feel as though you’re in a bottomless pit and the surface is nowhere reachable. On our own strength, technically that’s true. But by believing that we can be filled with the power of the Spirit, we can overcome just about any obstacle (Phil. 4:13) including conquering past sins and obsessions. It is a matter of a life-altering verdict: try to save myself or seek a Savior.
There are a lot excuses one could come up with to justify why sexual immorality is impossible to avoid. Someone’s faith might be a little short-fused to trust that God even has the power to help us get over the hump. Perhaps you like to compare yourself to all your friends’ behavior. Maybe you think when it’s late and you’re tired and vulnerable, God cuts you some slack. And let’s admit that each and every one of us has our moments of taking advantage of God’s grace post-sinning.
Hate to burst your bubble but…. No! No! No!
Belittling God’s magnificence and omnipotence isn’t smart. That exemplifies doubt. Talk about ‘o ye of little faith’. Another thing- we weren’t sent by God to measure up our lifestyles to those of others. Conforming to the world’s inhabitants isn’t an option.
We’re called to measure up to God’s Word. Strictly the Word. Yeah. Nothing. But. The Word.
Remember Matthew 4? Jesus fasting for 40 days and 40 nights? He couldn’t have been in a more weak and susceptible state of mind. But last I checked He didn’t crumble to Satan’s temptations. He stood His ground. How, you say? By quoting the Word! He said that man shall not live on bread alone but by the words of God! So no, you don’t have the excuse of being tired physically and mentally when falling into sin!
We were bought into freedom with a price. Not a light, fluffy price either. So don’t bother fooling yourself into thinking you can take sweet advantage of a grace always willing to cover your sin. It doesn’t work that way. God knows whether you’re authentically asking and seeking grace or not and whether you’re just searching a loop hole of the system.
Truth is, when I brainstormed this particular blog, I had in mind for it to be a fair warning of sorts. I desperately wanted to caution others especially those younger than me to avoid sexual immorality now by being careful with premarital forms of affection so that they won’t experience or run into the same difficulties and struggles that haunt me still to this day.
Forget courtesy and the concerns of others when you’re down each other’s throats in line for the rollercoaster (yes, that is a MASSIVE pet peeve of mine)- what are your inordinate expressions of affection saying to God? Here’s the deal and the unshakable fact that nobody, and I mean nobody, seems to be getting: before wedlock, your boyfriend or girlfriend is NOT yours! You never gain possession of them during this period (sorry extra possessive girls and guys). And the bodies of he or she who you state you’re dating do not belong to you either. So believe it or not, excuse me for shooting down the concept of propriety of affection as it pertains to modern day culture, you have no right whatsoever to touch someone whatever way and whenever you’d like!
What I would give to turn around the labels and terms we use these days in the ‘getting to know someone of the opposite sex’ stage. Dating. “We’re talking”. Hooking up. “We’re together”. Blah, blah, blah.
This sort of dialogue does one severely inappropriate thing: it knocks and pounds romantic thoughts and emotions in us as if someone grabbed the love hammer and began beating us with it (that is if we’re not already being shot by cupid’s arrows). It shoots those feelings up like a spring straight to our heart and mind. We were created as sexual beings, inherited a strong sexual makeup and design, and that’s essentially unavoidable.
So how in the world are we supposed to sustain a healthy beginning to a friendship when we’re surrounded by these labels that instantly suggest we’re going to be something more someday. When romantic seeds are planted, soon enough our behaviors with each other are affected by our growing contemplations that are most likely being watered by even our so-called friends saying “dude, you gotta’ tap that” or “He’s cute! Go talk to him!” Or the lovely arranged dates. And let me tell yah’ it really does not help the situation when we live in an age where if we’re seen out getting coffee with someone that instantly ‘something must be up’. Small Christian colleges like the one I attended should be ashamed for these sorts of assumptions and triggers they instigate.
We care more about how attracted we are to someone than who they are as a person- what their values, morals and character traits are. We’d rather jump to first base then have the patience and respect to take the time to truly understand the dynamic of a person. Want to hear about propriety of affection in 2014? It’s teenagers getting pregnant before knowing his middle name. It’s jumping the gun saying “I love you” because the way he kisses your neck ‘feels so right’. It’s fornicating for temporary relief of insecurity. These cultural patterns are poison and once you’re infected with poison, it doesn’t exit the body so pleasantly and often leaves a stain.
Put a halt to pursuing someone romantically or even praying about it for that matter as if that’s not manipulating God to grant your impure cravings. Enough with lowering your standards to the propriety of society. Understand that marriage and marriage alone is for union of two bodies to become one and any premarital affection taking place is a major, sinful, unholy interference that long term will be manifested as poison in your life.
*Pray for God’s blessing on your growth with friendships.
*Offer to pray, do devotionals or be in the Word with someone.
*The sad fact that it sounds uncomfortable these days to offer such a thing displays how much we’ve strayed from where God would like us to be in community with other believers.
*Participate in spiritually-based conversations and if that’s something that sounds lame or boring to you then you probably shouldn’t be searching for a relationship in the first place.
*Be sure that your first Love is God and He is positioned at the top of your list.
*Slowly build ties and if at some point you’re thinking ‘what if’ or ‘should we take this to the next level’, then prayerfully consider having that conversation, consult people of wisdom and experience who God has placed in your life for a reason and deliver your message.
But I’ll tell yah’, during the progressing process of friendship, BACK OFF from any lustful, inappropriate forms of affection. Maybe our parents weren’t so off when they said ‘leave room for the holy spirit’.
Ryan Walters. ’98.6 Too Cold’ Founder, Blogger