A Raging Fire Close to the Chest
Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? So is he who goes in to his neighbor's wife; none who touches her will go unpunished. (Proverbs 6:27-29)
There is a constant temptation to ask “How close can I get to sin without crossing the line?” This question is asked in every area of the Christian life – how generous do I have to be?, how faithful in attending worship should I be?, how often should I pray?, and so on. But this sort of question is probably most often asked in regard to sex. How free can I be with my body before God calls it sin?
The Bible is very positive about sex – God created it and designed it as the way to fill the earth with his children. Within marriage, sex has tremendous power to build a family. It is God’s gift to bring joy to spouses and to bind their hearts more intimately than anything else.
But it is this very power to bind hearts together that makes sex a “raging fire” outside of marriage. Sexual intimacy causes dopamine levels to rise, neural pathways to be rewired, emotional and spiritual attachments to form; this intertwining of two lives is only wise if you made the public promise to live and build a life together until “death do us part.” Outside marriage, sex has the capacity to break lives rather than build them, whether through adultery (as Proverbs 6 alludes to), or through premarital sex, or any other departure from God’s plan.
Instead of asking “How much can I flirt with fire?” the better question is “How can I serve God with my body?” My pastoral advice for those who are dating is this: anything that goes beyond holding hands and kissing is likely to build an attachment that is better reserved for marriage. God’s commands are always for our protection.
Now, the good news is that the Scriptures are full of sexual sinners finding redemption through God’s forgiveness. David committed adultery with Bathsheba, but it led to the gift of a son, Solomon. King Solomon sinned by taking a thousand wives, many of them pagan, but was still God’s instrument to write a couple books of the Bible. The woman caught in adultery in John 8 received Jesus’ forgiveness. There is no limit to the grace of God for those who repent.
But alongside that grace, there are of course still very real consequences for sin. David’s family and kingdom were greatly weakened by his failure with Bathsheba; Solomon led the nation into many sins, and Israel erupted into civil war after his death; and the woman who was forgiven by Jesus was also commanded by him, “Go and sin no more.”
So today, rejoice that the love of God reaches out to you wherever you are and wherever you have been. But beware the raging fire of sexual sin – in your thoughts, your words, and your actions. Far better to receive God’s grace and to give destruction a wide berth.
Father, thank you for the gift of sex, which is a foreshadowing of the much greater spiritual intimacy that awaits us in heaven. Help me honor my family, and others’ families today, by treating sex as you desire. Renew my sense of your forgiveness and fill me with your strength to walk in purity today. In Christ’s Name, Amen.