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When Your Kids Ask, 'How Far Can I Go?'

Helping your children understand God’s design for sex … and how to save themselves for marriage.
By Jonathon McKee


During high school I had a serious girlfriend. We dated for almost a year and we spent every possible moment together. We started as friends, but that quickly escalated to something more.

I waited about a month to kiss her for the first time. I won't bore you with the details, but within a few months, it wasn't uncommon for our time together to include long make-out sessions.

Something began happening. The more time we spent making out, the more difficult it was to stop it from going further.

You probably know exactly what I'm talking about.

It's almost as if God's design is that once you start passionately kissing … you want to keep going!

This is where the inevitable question is asked: How far can we go?

It's the biggest question Christians in relationships are forced to wrestle with almost every day.

Where's the line?

Some couples never discuss it. This is the surest way to fail. Just hope it doesn't progress. Any couple who has dated for any length of time and gets alone will quickly discover that kissing leads to passionate embraces, which evolve to groping … until soon it takes a dad with a shotgun to stop things from progressing further.

Those couples who do address the question usually are searching for a line to show them how far they should go. If they've read the Bible at all they know sex is for marriage. But what is sex? Sex is just intercourse, right? So the search for the line begins.

Some people will allow touching above the waist, others allow touching below the waist. Some will allow … this is getting a little explicit and uncomfortable for some of us reading, but these are the lines that young people search for. And most of them try to figure it out on their own … because very few Christians talk about it explicitly.

So most will continue to wonder, How far is too far?

Launch sequence

I think of the classic show Everybody Loves Raymond. In one episode, Raymond was walking around in his boxers while cleaning the house, and his wife, Debra, walked into the room, noticed him cleaning, and got turned on. (Yes, that is the key to a woman's heart. Get off your butt and do something around the house!) She walked up to him, whispered in his ear, and began kissing him passionately.

Suddenly, she heard a sound upstairs from the kids and stopped her sexual advance. Frustrated with Debra, Raymond exclaimed, "What are you doing? You can't stop. You already initiated the launch sequence!"

That's the best advice we can give our kids: Don't even initiate the launch sequence.

No, I'm not telling our kids they can't kiss. In fact, I often word it the same way I worded it in my advice to guys in my book The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket: "Don't do anything with your girlfriend you wouldn't do in front of your grandmother."

It's like this: You're a teenage guy and your family throws a big dinner for your birthday, inviting the entire extended family and your girlfriend. After dinner you open presents. Your girlfriend gives you a really nice gift and you lean over and give her a kiss in front of everyone. She blushes, the adults smile, and your little brother exclaims, "Ew, gross!"

Sounds innocent.

Now picture the exact same scenario, same crowd, same present from the girlfriend … but this time, when you lean over to kiss her, you start becoming a little more passionate. Instead of just kissing her, you crawl on top of her and start kissing her neck and breathing heavy.

Who would do this? Chances are Dad might spray you with the garden hose!

Why wouldn't a teenage guy do this in front of Grandma and the whole family?

Perhaps because it's … intimate. And intimate situations like this usually progress to something else. The world teaches us, Who cares if it progresses to something else? But God's design is that intimate situations like this are really reserved for two people who have committed to each other for a life in marriage.

The wrong question

I commonly hear young people ask, "How far is too far? That's like asking me, "How close to the fire can I get without getting burned?" Sadly, the only way to find out is to get burned.

News flash: We don't have to learn everything in life the hard way.

So whenever a young couple asks me, "How far should we go?" I respond, "You're asking the wrong question."

The better question is, "How far can we stay away?"

Let's look at the situation. Kids need to learn that:

  • God's design is the best way; therefore, they should want to wait until marriage for sex.
  • Sex isn't just intercourse—it's the whole process. After all, Jesus said lusting is the same as actually doing it.
  • No one should initiate the process unless they're married—because the process is meant to be finished. And there's only one person our kids should start and finish the process with—their spouse!

With these things in mind, encourage your kids to ask, "How can I be successful in saving myself for my spouse?"

Fleeing

The biggest issue many young people are going to have to address is, Do I want to live for the truth and make godly choices, or live for the quick thrill of the moment?

Those who want to stay pure need to realize the draw of sexual temptation and avoid it at all costs.

Maybe that's why the Bible often uses the word flee.

Sometimes I use the following illustration when talking about fleeing:

Fact: Dentists have recommended that a toothbrush be kept at least six feet away from a toilet to avoid airborne particles resulting from the flush.

How many of you are going to store your toothbrush just five feet away? It's only a foot shorter than the dentist recommends. Maybe only a few urine particles will splash into your toothbrush.

How many of you are going to store it right next to the toilet by the toilet paper roll? You could build a little shelf right there.

How many of you want to hang it by a string in the toilet bowl so that it is practically rinsed every time you flush?

If we're told that we shouldn't put our toothbrush within six feet of the toilet because of airborne particles, most of us will probably store our toothbrush about 20 feet away if possible. Why?  Because the thought of poop fumes or pee splashes wandering onto our toothbrushes is not acceptable!

There is a principle here: If we discover danger to be within a certain proximity, we avoid that proximity completely.

Why don't we do that with sexual temptation? We determine we don't even want to start the process… then we go and put ourselves in situations where the process not only starts, but it's hard to stop!

Why flirt with disaster?

Help your kids understand God's design. They need to be careful not to initiate the launch sequence. Encourage them to save the amazing process of sex for marriage, and flee sexual temptation.

 

Adapted from More Than Just the Talk by Jonathon McKee, Copyright © 2015. Used by permission of Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group.  All rights reserved.

Next Steps

1. Listen to Jonathon McKee tell FamilyLife Today® listeners how parents can have real conversations with their kids about sex.

2. Kids need to know that their parents are their most reliable source of information when it comes to sex. Order More Than Just the Talk and learn how to have open, ongoing conversations with your children.

3. Our children’s innocence is under attack, and parents cannot win the battle with a single awkward "birds and the bees" talk or a strict set of rules. Order a Passport2Purity® getaway kit and learn how to lay a foundation of purity with your preteen that will prepare them for the turbulent years ahead.



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