How can I avoid sexual immorality?

Email Received:

I’m still trying to deal with the fact that I am a divorced man. Life has been strange. I am dating someone who was a friend of mine for many years. It started out as a mutual enjoyment of an activity. We would take part in the activity. In between we would discuss religion. Eventually I ended up attending her church. It was a bit intimidating. So I convinced her to attend Resurrection one week a month. that lasted about one visit. Now we attend every weekend. I don’t understand why, but it seems like the stronger my faith becomes the better our relationship becomes. At the same time we struggle with exactly what is proper for a dating couple. I know it’s a taboo question, but I have been searching and I can’t exactly figure out what is proper for a dating couple. I know pre-marital sex is out. I did that the first time around and learned my lesson. I just can’t figure out what the term sexual immorality means. It seems like the bible has no information on dating. what are your thoughts on this? I know this is a rather intimate subject, but I refuse to make the same mistakes twice so I apologize for the nature of my questions.

My Response:

Thanks for sharing the story of your relationship. I think that it is a very real experience to grow stronger in your faith and stronger in your relationship. Faith can be a very strong binding force in relationships and in marriage. It can also be a wedge between two people if they are headed in different directions in their spiritual journey.

No need to apologize for the nature of your questions. They are real questions and I appreciate your honesty. The question that you seem to be asking is what is it that I can do to avoid sexual immorality. I would agree with your conclusion that sexual intercourse outside of a marriage relationship is not God’s intention. Beyond that there are many different ways of interpreting as a couple “how far to go.” Sexual intercourse, oral sex, mutual masturbation, touching body parts – all these are areas that you will have to talk about as a couple. I encourage you to engage your partner in this conversation. Make a decision together about how you feel comfortable together. I believe that it is very important that you do not go further than either partner is comfortable going sexually. I also believe that it is important that you set boundaries as a couple that excludes activities with which you may be comfortable, but which you recognize is not the way in which God is calling you to be in relationship.

I also encourage you to ask a question with some similarities and some distinct differences. In addition to, “How can I avoid sexual immorality?” you might also ask the question of yourself and as a couple, “How is God calling us to be in relationship?” This has many different aspects, one of which is physical. You might also talk about your spiritual journey together, future life plans and goals, your emotional connection and many other areas. This shifts the question from what to avoid to what to strive for. Does that make sense?

I would also suggest that you consider reading as a couple the book, Making Love Last a Lifetime by Adam Hamilton. It may also provide some insight on dating, relationships and preparation for marriage. You can pick it up at the bookstore before or after worship on the weekend or you can order it online here – http://thewell.cor.org/detail.aspx?ID=4.

Please feel free to ask any other questions or let me know if there is any other way that I might provide guidance or care.

What do you think?

What does God think of divorce?

Email Received:

I am writing because I have a few questions I need help with. I am recently divorced. It seems my wife didn’t understand that you are not supposed to date other people when you are married. We tried to work it out the first time 3 years ago, but the second time she decided to stay with her boyfriend and I moved out. It’s been about 8 months since the divorce and I am now starting to date one of my best friends. We have brought each other back to church and now that I am growing in my faith I have some real concerns. What does god think about divorce? I read so many things about how god hates divorce and I am worried that I have committed a sin when it was of no choice of mine. I just don’t know how to feel about this and could use some guidance.

My Response:
Thanks for the question. I have a couple different responses to your question – What does God think about divorce? The first response that I would like to share is a statement from the denomination on divorce. It is a part of the Book of Discipline which is the governing document for United Methodist Churches and you can find this section online here – http://archives.umc.org/interior.asp?mid=1723

“God’s plan is for lifelong, faithful marriage. The church must be on the forefront of premarital and postmarital counseling in order to create and preserve strong marriages. However, when a married couple is estranged beyond reconciliation, even after thoughtful consideration and counsel, divorce is a regrettable alternative in the midst of brokenness. We grieve over the devastating emotional, spiritual, and economic consequences of divorce for all involved and are concerned about high divorce rates.”

A couple other online resources that may be helpful:

My response is that part of the reality in your situation is that there was already a break in the covenant of marriage. The divorce did not break the covenant of marriage between you and her. It was already broken through the infidelity. There are times when marriage can recover from cheating, but it takes the desire and commitment of both persons to make it happen. It sounds as if your ex-wife was not willing or able to make that commitment to make things work.

I hope that this is helpful. Please feel free to send an email with any additional clarifying questions or other ways that I can provide guidance. Thanks and hope your week is going well.

You might also see a previous post, Can two deeply committed Christians get divorced?

What do you think?

Speedlinking – July 14, 2008

Speedlinking – June 5, 2008

Can two deeply committed Christians get divorced?

I was asked this question recently and my initial response was “yes.” However, now I am thinking maybe the answer is “no.” I never believe that divorce should be a first choice or seem like an easy option.

I think that there are circumstances where divorce makes the most sense and is perhaps the best option for two people – abuse being a clear example to me. There may be other reasons as well. My first thought was that these circumstances happen to faithful and unfaithful people alike and that being a deeply committed Christian would not preclude divorce.

As I think more about it though, it becomes a little less clear. If two people were practicing their faith and took seriously their vows of marriage then I am not sure that divorce would make sense. I would suggest that if one is living out their faith that abuse would not be a possibility and that in the case of infidelity (which is not something to which anyone is immune) a commitment to the marriage vows should make some difference.

I am still not quite sure on this question. What do you think?