One may correctly assume that no Christian, whether they observe the commandment or not, will ever say that it is appropriate to sleep with the wife or husband of another person. Neither will you find any that will say, at least publicly, that it is o.k. to sleep with someone prior to being married to them. These issues are pretty much clear in the minds of Christians. However, there are some areas that are a bit sketchy due to the fact that the Bible doesn’t address them specifically. These areas are especially troublesome to young people, who are bombarded daily by images from a culture that embraces a “do what you feel” attitude towards just about everything, especially in relation to sex.
The young people are not concerned with whether they should sleep with someone they are married to, they already know the answer to that question. In this area, it is a matter of obedience. Where they have a hard time — or perhaps it’s not really a hard time but a full acceptance — is in dealing with how physical they can get with an individual while being outside of marriage. In sermons, lectures, and devotional talks, pre-marital sex is always the issue being addressed, while the other areas are not touched at all. What other areas? The touching of the chest, the backside, and even more private parts.
Whereas this piece doesn’t claim to be the final word on this issue, it attemps to provide a biblical framework from which one can reason in terms of these matters. The best place to start is with the marriage of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2:24 (cf. Matt. 19:3-6), but we will forgo that analysis and begin with the seventh commandment. In a few words, making them easy to remember, the seventh commandment reads, “You shall not commit adultery” (Ex. 20:14, ESV).
The immediate context of the verse places it within the confines of not only the tenth commandments, which are believed to have been audibly spoken by God (Ex. 20:1, 19, 22), but the section dealing with man’s relationship with his own kind (Ex. 20:12-17). The Pauline summarization is to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Rom. 13:9, NIV 2011 update). These commandments were given to the people of Israel after years of bondage under the Egyptians (Ex. 12:40, 41). One can imagine the effects of this long period (with no record of God sending prophets to the people) on the religious practices and beliefs of the Israelites. Thus analytically it does make sense that God choose to state the laws.
The phrase “You shall not” automatically presents a point of fraustration to the modern youth, who, for the most part, is anti-authority. If the idea of a local authority or parent having the right to say what one can or can’t do is disagreable, then imagine the idea of a God whom one can’t see (or have never heard audibly) saying what is not to be done in the pages of an ancient book. Thus the fact that the culture promotes a rebellious and revolutionary approach (which may or may not be bad based on what one is rebelling or revolting against) to anything that limits or prohibits, conditions the modern young mind to assume a posture that is contrary to anything beginning with “You shall not.” For some, the phrase “trust and obey” losses its’ charm once the song is over and the theory must be acted out.
The second point of relevance in this verse is the phrase “commit adultery.” In a primary sense it simply means that whether one is married or not, he/she can’t have sex with one who is married. Webster defines adultery as, “voluntary sexual intercourse between a married man and someone other than his wife or between a married woman and someone other than her husband.”
However, as is indicated by Jesus, there is a secondary sense. In the Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew 5-7, Jesus includes a commentary on the seventh commandment that deals with the internal thoughts of man before any act takes place. This is not to state that this aspect was not part of the commandment, rather, He emphasized what was neglected. By saying “anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28, NIV 2011 update), Jesus calls for the avoidance of sexual thoughts towards one who is not married to the thinker. Whether or not the person that is being thought of is married doesn’t make a difference.
This is then followed by declarations concerning getting rid of physical parts that would cause you to sin: the “right eye” and the “right hand” (Matt. 5:29-30). The best way to understand these verses is not to go into self mutilation, rather, to forbid ourselves from using our parts as tools for temptation. For example, if you can’t seem to stop thinking about sleeping with women that you see, perhaps you should focus on not looking at them. Of course it can always be argued that that is not possible, but if one makes an effort to redirect the eye, then the thoughts that usually come up will be challenged to change.
If this is correct, then it can be used to address the touching of the private parts. If touching her in a certain place gets you both hot and bothered then perhaps you shouldn’t be touching her in that place. If the touching causes you to sin then why continue touching. This is just spiritual common sense. The hands, eyes, and other parts of the body are channels through which thoughts of lust can be communicated or activated. By activated, that is to say that sometimes one is prompted to think sexual thoughts because of something they see or touch, and not the other way around.
Is there anything easy about this? No, but it is spiritual reality. In order for the youth of today to be victorious over an area of consistent pressure, such as sex, then steps in the right direction must be taken. If not, then eventually this area of neglect will be solidified in our minds to the point where it won’t seem wrong to our consciousness. Of course the other option is to act like this is insignificant. You may choose to do that, but remember that “it is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go to hell” (Matt. 5:30, NIV 2011 update).