Is the Bible silent on kissing or fondling before marriage and outside of marriage?
A Holy Kiss
In the New Testament, Paul admonishes believers to “Greet one another with a holy kiss” (2nd Cor 13:12) as this was the custom of greeting in those days and even is many cultures today but that was referring to the customary greeting of Christians and there were no sexual overtones to it. Today, we shake hands but at that time it was the custom of kissing one another on the cheek when we greeted someone and this was a sign of fellowship and love but is kissing or fondling between an unmarried couple sin? If they’re engaged already, is it still sin? Does the Bible mention this specifically as sin? If not, is there precedence in the Bible for this or can we glean from Scriptures whether this is sin or not?
The Lust Problem
The problem with lust started long ago when Satan desired to take over God’s throne so that he could receive worship (Isaiah 14:13) and part of the reason that Eve took of the tree that God had forbidden might have been because she too wanted to be like the most high and take for herself the knowledge of good and evil. Satan appealed to her vanity by tempting her by saying “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:5). So you can see that lust has been a systemic problem within humanity for a very long time. Solomon warned that “The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the treacherous are taken captive by their lust” (Prov 11:6).
Lusting in the Heart
I love what C.S. Lewis once wrote; “If you look upon ham and eggs and lust, you have already committed breakfast in your heart.” The same principle applies when we lust in our hearts and our minds over someone who is not our spouse. Jesus said “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt 5:27-28). How can this be? Before any sexual sin, there is lust and lusting in your heart and mind over someone who’s not your spouse is the first step in actually doing it. If you could get away with it you probably would. That’s why pornography is such a wicked sin. It creates such a lustful heart that we do everything but the literal act of adultery. Certainly the actual physical act is much worse but even contemplating it and fantasizing about it is lusting in the heart and Jesus said that this is sin; like adultery without the actual person being there.
The Bible on Lust
There is no sin in lusting after your own spouse because the marriage bed is undefiled (Heb 13:4) but what if a couple are already betrothed or engaged to one another? Since they’ve made a commitment to remain faithful to one another, isn’t it permissible in God’s eyes? Paul gives us clear evidence that it is not by writing “that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 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” (1st Thess 4:4-6). God will avenge those who take advantage of someone else’s weakness by trying to manipulate them into a sexually immoral act.
The Human Heart
Every one of us is susceptible to sexual immorality but “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority” (2nd Pet 2:9-10a). This is the way of the world or as the Apostle John wrote, “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world” (1st John 2:16). Lust is not from the Father but from our own fleshly desires. This only leads to death if it is not repented of. Kissing, petting, and fondling between unmarried couples of the same sex or opposite sex is sin and this can easily lead to lusting of the heart and no one should be kissing, fondling, or petting anyone who is not their spouse. Kissing is the exception between unmarried couples but this can also lead to petting and fondling and then to lust and finally to adultery, either in actuality or in the heart and that is sin. Kissing someone who you are engaged too is not necessarily sin but it can lead to sin if there is no preponderance placed on avoiding sin and lust.
Jesus said that if you lust in your heart after someone, you’ve already committed adultery in your mind and Jesus indicates this is about the same thing as the physical act of adultery; it’s just adultery in the mind and not in bed (Matt 5:27-28). We can try and rationalize it away and say, “Well, in my heart, I am not going to lust after them” but Jeremiah wrote “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it” (Jer 17:9) meaning we can deceive ourselves, so it is best to refrain from having extended, passionate kisses, petting or fondling of someone you’re not married to because the end for those who live in sexual immorality is not good (Rev 2:18).
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.