I have often heard it said, “Experience is the best teacher.” That actually may be true for some things. For some things the “hands-on” approach is perfect because if mistakes are made, there are no long-term negative consequences. For other things, however, I personally prefer another 'old saying': “The best teacher is someone else’s experience.” Take cooking for example. We can prepare an awesome dish by following a recipe that’s been tried and found delicious! I’ve got some relatives that are “legends in the kitchen” (at least in their own minds!) who we have learned (by experience) to ask to bring the beverage, not an entre, to family dinners!
There are certain words that my mother used to utter when I would ask her to do something. Although she might use the same exact words, the words could have completely different meanings. Sometimes she would say, “Go ahead”, and she meant that she was giving me permission. At other times she would say the very same words but her tone of voice carried a warning with it; her tone said that if I ‘went ahead’ that there’d be something on the other side of that experience that would make me wish I’d made another choice. For those of us who have had to learn the hard way--myself included-- we might want to consider some different choices than what we have been led to believe from our culture is the right, or only, choice. God gives us choices, as well as the wisdom to choose wisely. In Deuteronomy 30:15-20, He says, “I set before you life and death.” I want to present to you another choice about purity, and in particular another view of kissing, that you may never have heard or thought of before.
When I think of the word “purity” I think of it in terms of one’s entire being-- body, soul, and spirit-- being free from anything that would contaminate or spoil its best state of being. I think of my spirit being 100% open to pray and to be able to hear from God. I think of my mind being able to think clearly (Prov.4: 23) and to make choices and decisions that will allow me to experience and enjoy the freedom and joy that Christ died for me to have. I think of being unafraid, unashamed, and having a clear conscience. I think of my body being free and healthy and able to do whatever I want it to do; disease free and not encumbered by addictions to unhealthy or sinful lusts. I think of my spirit, mind and body as total gifts from God. I had to learn that my life had more value than I was giving it, and even when I found out what a treasure my life is, it was important for me to learn how to ‘treat the treasure', in other words—how to truly ‘treasure the treasure’.
It is very important for us to learn about relationships-- good ones and bad ones-- before we make decisions about the folks with whom we want to share our ‘goods’. Yes, I said our ‘goods’! We have to remember that when God said, “It is not good for man to live alone”, it was within the context of the command that He had given to every living thing, “Be fruitful and multiply!” So God meant for sex to be something good!
At a single women’s retreat sometime ago, I made a statement to a group of young women. My statement was the following, and it shocked them: I told them that I date, but that I do not kiss. You would have thought I’d told them that I always drive with my eyes closed! I know that kissing is thought of as innocent behavior. I stated to them that I hadn’t always lived by that ‘rule’, but I’ve lived on the planet long enough to know what a kiss means to the rest of my body and so I have made the choice not only to be celibate, but even not to kiss. They were so shocked that I had to ask myself, “What’s up with not kissing?”
So after the retreat, I started asking myself, “What is it about a kiss that really isn’t so innocent after all?” I kept hearing the refrain from an old song by Cher, ‘The Shoop Shoop Song’ in which was this lyric, “If you wanna know if it really is, it’s in his kiss.” So my question became, “What’s in a kiss?” So I consulted with my friend ‘Google’ and typed the words, “What’s in a kiss?” Lo and behold, up popped the word, “Oxytocin!” I’d never heard of it before. So I read further. Oxytocin is a chemical that we are born with. Have you ever observed an infant when he/she is hungry? When that baby spies its milk source… OMG! Their little legs and arms start moving at the same time and they begin to suck even before the milk gets to their little mouths. If a baby doesn’t suck it won’t thrive, but oxytocin sends messages to the brain that something wonderful is about to happen even before the baby drinks the milk. Wow! God is amazing in His provision for even a baby’s survival!
God was absolutely brilliant in His design for the human body, including his design for sex and for reproduction. There is a whole neuroscience that is involved in kissing and sex and reproduction, including several different chemicals that are released into our body when we kiss. Oxytocin plays a major role in the bonding that takes place between a male and female in a relationship. Oxytocin is called the ‘bonding hormone’. Couples physically touch a lot, from holding hands to kissing, to just simple body contact. All of this causes oxytocin to be released, which leads to feelings of pleasure and bonding. A woman may say; “I want to touch him! To hold him! I can’t stop thinking about him! I can’t wait until I see him again! I think I am addicted to him!” To a great degree this is the influence of oxytocin. It is the bonding chemical oxytocin, in combination with a woman’s estrogen that causes a woman to attach or bond to a man.
When a woman kisses, she feels a tingling sensation in parts of her body as her brain and neurotransmitters prepare her body for sexual intimacy. God designed our bodies and it was his intent that the exchange of a kiss would be experienced by a man and woman committed to one another within the bounds of marriage, for as long as they both shall live. Our culture and the media influence a lot of our thinking, attitudes, and behaviors about everything, including our sexual relationships and intimacy. A mere Google search will reveal countless affairs and short-term marriages and relationships in what I call “Follywood.” The media, the storylines in the soaps and movies, the shows that give us a picture of the glamorous and romantic lifestyles of the celebrities never show us relationships that endure struggles or that work through issues, or that last past the infatuation stage. Our view of relationships is warped and impure unless we continuously renew our minds by the Word of God and by His Spirit (Romans 12:2) and therefore have the mind of Christ alive in us (Phil. 2:8). The media proudly boasts that its purpose is to mold the minds of the public-- particularly the young-- before their brains are fully developed. But the media only shows the infatuation love. We rarely see committed love, and we never see the bonding phase. Only God’s Word can give us the true picture of real intimacy and pure love.
Some 40+ years ago I started an informal research project after closely observing hundreds of relationships in a particular work setting in which couples’ sexuality was discussed. I had noticed some very negative and common threads that always seemed to surface as a consequence of sexual activity outside of marriage. Those consequences have not changed. We hear about them in the news all the time, but we often don’t realize that they are what we can expect if we choose to ‘do relationships’ and sex ‘our way’ instead of God’s way. As a pastor once said, “Fire in a fireplace is beautiful, but in the curtains, fire is disastrous.” What I noticed was that these relationships usually resulted in one or all of the following:
1. The man becomes passive while the woman dominates in some way. She cannot trust him because he was supposed to bring the fruit of the Spirit into the relationship, which includes self-control. (Gal. 5:22-23)
2. The man becomes jealous or obsessed with the woman.
3. The man becomes abusive. Even today we’re trying to figure out how to put an end to domestic violence.
4. The man (or woman) becomes unfaithful.
Even though they are rarely if ever talked about as consequences of sex outside of marriage, many of these situations pop up in movies, in talk shows, and in newsrooms, as well as in way too many homes.
I can’t think of any woman who has any of those outcomes on her wish list. Frankly, I cannot believe any man would find these outcomes desirable either. So perhaps someone reading this has made some choices that have not led to the relationships and life you desire. Perhaps your mind, body or spirit have been contaminated in some way at some point in time. This writer wants you to know that it’s never too late to get ‘cleaned’ up. In Psalm 119:9 the psalmist asks the question, “How can a young man cleanse his way?’ The answer is, “By listening to and living by God’s words.” Jesus told us that we can’t live by bread only, but we can live by every word God speaks. (Matthew 4:4) God cannot—and will not-- bless what He says ‘don’t do’. So marriage alone doesn’t make premarital or extramarital sex righteous. It involves repenting and agreeing with God that what we did was wrong and apologizing, if appropriate, to those with whom we have ‘muddied the waters’. It is deciding that ALL of our attitudes and behaviors are going to line up with the will of God, including our relationships with others. God wants our happiness even more than we do, and He alone knows that what truly will lead to our happiness is our purity in mind, soul, and body.
It saddens me to hear a young man or woman who apologetically makes the declaration that he or she is a “virgin,” or who is judged to be a freak of nature because he or she made a choice not to have sex. What would happen if a guy and girl totally got to know each other from the inside out before anything physical took place—including kissing? I have a few personal friends who abstained even from kissing before they said, “I do.” The man in one of those couples said, “I never kissed her because I did not want to put her in a position to compromise what we believe.” So, the truth is sexual purity is possible and it still does happen, and it happens when people choose to make the right choice regarding their relationships—according to the Word of God. I believe that purity begins in the mind-- before marriage --and that true purity can carry even through the marriage and until death.
Toni Turner is an associate pastor at Covenant Church of Pittsburgh, and a counselor. She has also formerly worked as a counselor in a reproductive health center, as well as a Pastoral Director and facilitator for post-abortive women at the Women’s Choice Network, a pregnancy care center.