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Youth Messenger Online Edition


Your Questions Answered
Ghennady Melnychuk

1.  Can you hold hands or kiss before marriage? How much touching is too much touching? Given today’s times, what are the physical boundaries for courtship?

2.  Should the courtship relationship be “no touching” and where do you draw the line? Like holding hands leads to touching a little further on the arms . . . maybe kissing follows soon after . . . and hugging tightly—you can feel everything on the body. . . . Isn’t that a temptation and an appearance of evil? Like, Jesus clearly says no sex before marriage—does that include kissing, touching, and hugging as well?

To talk about moral standards and about keeping boundaries of physical contact between a young man and woman sounds old-fashioned in today’s sex-saturated society. Although the general principles of moral standards are clearly depicted in the Word of God, the passions of the human heart crave for more intimacy in a relationship with the opposite sex, while begging for a definite answer, “How far can I go, and still be safe?”

Let me ask you, “How fast would you drive your car if there would be no speed limit?” My next question is, “How quickly could you stop a vehicle if you were driving over 100 mph and suddenly you needed to break?” I’m sure most of you haven’t had this as the first thought after reading the previous question.

The faster you drive, the longer the distance you need before you can make a complete stop. The very same principle applies to our emotional drive. The more intimate the physical contact between two people of the opposite sex, the harder it becomes to stop before crossing the boundary of what is inappropriate and sinful. “Few temptations are more dangerous or more fatal to young men than the temptation to sensuality, and none if yielded to will prove so decidedly ruinous to soul and body for time and eternity. The welfare of his entire future is suspended upon the decision of a moment.”—Letters to Young Lovers, p. 69.

But what if there are some complications while you’re trying to stop a vehicle, such as a road being wet or icy? Let’s apply that idea to a relationship. What if two young people who are in love are left alone, and it’s evening, and there is some nice, relaxing music in the background . . . ? The slower you drive, the safer you will be; the more restrained you are, the smaller the chance of becoming prey to Satan’s temptations.

Some people are just looking for an exact rule regarding every step of their relationship. Can we hold hands? Yes or no? If yes, for how long, and can it be above the wrist? And so on . . . The Bible does not give us exact instructions in this regard; it also doesn’t tell us not to smoke or go through a red light. This reminds me of a group of people in the time of Jesus, who always wanted more and more rules—the Pharisees. But Jesus left us with only one simple principle about this subject, “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). What that means is that young people of the opposite sex may commit adultery (in their thoughts) by not even standing close to each other. Conversely, a couple may remain pure walking hand in hand together.

Now, don’t rush and shout, “Hurray, we can hold hands.”

Young men, imagine you had married an outwardly beautiful girl. Later in life, she has an accident, and she gets a big scar on her face, or she simply becomes very overweight after her pregnancy. Her beauty is gone. What are you left with? Does she have a character that you will enjoy living with? Wouldn’t it be terrible to realize that you married a woman with an ugly character because you were driven by passion and were therefore blinded by her outward beauty?

Courtship is not for intimacy, but it is a time to discover what her/his character is like. When you enter the pre-marital (engagement) stage of your relationship, only then may holding hands be appropriate. But again, remember that physical contact tends to build up quickly, so “drive” carefully.

If marriage is not on your horizon yet, you need to be honest and restrain yourself from any physical contact. Remember that liking a person is not enough to make holding hands appropriate. For example, if a young man likes a girl and she likes him also, it does not mean that they will marry each other. So, in this case, any touching is not appropriate. To help you understand this principle more clearly, imagine your mom holding hands with another man, saying that they’re just friends. What would you think about it? So, unless you are in a relationship with a person (engaged), it is not appropriate to hold hands.

How about hugging and kissing? Are hugs of greeting forbidden? Is it okay to give a “goodbye” kiss on the cheek? The same principle applies here as in holding hands. Remember Christ’s words that the sin of adultery begins in the heart. You’ll need to be truly honest with yourself about hugging and kissing: When do you give them? How often, and how long they last? What is the difference in the length of a “goodbye” hug and kiss given in the presence of parents or other people, compared to kisses given in privacy? How far is too far? The surprising answer given by inspiration: “Do not see how close you can walk upon the brink of a precipice and be safe. Avoid the first approach to danger. . . . Moral purity, self-respect, a strong power of resistance, must be firmly and constantly cherished. There should not be one departure from reserve. One act of familiarity, one indiscretion, may jeopardize the soul, in opening the door to temptation, and the power of resistance becomes weakened.”—Manuscript Releases, vol. 18, pp. 297, 298.

The Bible says, “God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). The general principle is that parts of the body that remain covered with clothes when in the presence of others, are not to be touched before marriage at all.

Unfortunately, all the above-written principles will only make sense to a converted person. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

The world laughs at Biblical moral principles, and if you believe we are descendants of monkeys, then definitely there is no sense to restrain yourself—just live as the animals do, driven by two main instincts: survival (food and drink), and reproduction. But if you believe that a loving God created you and redeemed you by His blood, then live and act accordingly.

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).