For this is the will of God, sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; –1 Thessalonians 4:3
This verse is usually met with a follow up question, “What exactly is sexual immorality?” That, of course, is the sanctified way of asking, “Is it still okay if my girlfriend and I _________?
Because of this question I’ve found it helpful to use the Scriptures to define sexual immorality. Here is how I typically define sexual immorality:
Anything that is intentionally sexually arousing outside the context of marriage.
I’ve never found giving someone a list of prescribed activities helpful. Mostly because as Romans 1 indicates the human heart has a tendency of looking for loopholes and finding new ways to sin. Saying “anything that is intentionally sexually arousing” has a way of bringing this back to the heart.
This means if tying your girlfriend’s shoe is somehow arousing, then you need to stop. And certainly this covers anything else that might typically be on that list. The activity itself doesn’t matter as much as what is going on in your heart.
I added this word purposefully. Many people beat themselves up because they are naturally aroused by things. That is part of the way that God has made us. When that initial arousal becomes sinful is when you seek a second look, a second touch, etc. for the purpose of recapturing that feeling of arousal. Then it becomes intentional.
I’d also mention that putting yourself in a place where an “accident” might happen—like watching movies with scantily clad people—would fall under the category of intentional.
Outside the Context of Marriage…
Here it might be helpful to consult my definition for marriage. Marriage, properly defined, is God’s context for sexual expression and intimacy. Anything outside of this proper context is inappropriate. And 1 Thessalonians 4 shows us how seriously Jesus takes this commandment:
…that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you…Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
Engaging in sexual immorality outside of marriage defrauds another human being, even “lonely” acts, like looking at pornography. Jesus says that he will avenge this sin. I take that very seriously.
Jesus is making all things new. This includes our sexuality. Brothers and sisters, let us turn away from sexual immorality and pursue Christ. There is no sexual sin, no matter how ensnaring, that is outside of His power and mercy. He forgives, He heals, and He transforms.
Find sexual freedom today. If you are struggling with sexual immorality and want help here area few resources that can assist you.