Sarah from Fort Wayne, Indiana writes: “Hi Pastor John! In a previous episode, ‘How far is too far before marriage?’ you answered questions about sexual boundaries before marriage. I'd also like to know, how far is too far emotionally and spiritually before marriage? I've heard from several people that praying together and reading Scripture together can be dangerous to do as a couple before marriage. What are your thoughts?”
Sexual intercourse is the natural, appropriate, and longed for completion and consummation of emotional and spiritual union. I am starting with that conviction. That is why it is so wounding and tragic for men and women to have purely physical one night stands, experimental sexual encounters, or serial relationships.
Made for More
Women are made to long for a man to know her and love her for more than merely her body. A woman feels used and abused, even in marriage, if she believes this intercourse is just this man’s animal appetite rather than the suitable consummation of a profound affection bonding, a soul bonding, and a personal bonding.
Men are made by God to wield their strength gently. They are to harness their appetites and make them serve higher and greater things like deep love for this woman as a person and the rich union of souls and minds.
Emotional and Physical
Sexual union is meant to be a completion, the climax, or the consummation of a personal, emotional, and spiritual union. It should be an event in the body that corresponds to an event in the soul and the heart and the mind. It doesn't become less physical.
“Sexual intercourse is the natural, longed for consummation of emotional and spiritual union.”
I don’t want to give the impression that I am over spiritualizing sexual intercourse, but I believe this with all my heart. I have experienced this. I think I could warrant it from the nature of human beings and from aspects of being one flesh in the Bible.
It doesn't become less physical when you think of it this way. I would say it becomes more physical by being an organic connection with the totality of personhood. That is the goal. This is why adultery, fornication, one night stands, and serial relationships are so heart breaking and tragic and damaging and wounding to the souls of many women.
Now here is the question: What are the implications of that for soul bonding before marriage? That is how I understand the question. A man, especially, needs to stay awake to what is happening emotionally, spiritually, and personally in the relationship. Don’t take yourself into a depth of spiritual and emotional bonding that will not consummate in marriage and sexual union.
Be alert that every step deeper into emotional and spiritual union with a woman’s soul is a step toward physical union — that is, towards marriage. Don’t take her there. Don’t go with her there if this is not moving toward a marriage relationship. It will deeply wound her and you if you awaken depths of oneness in each other emotionally and then try to just walk away from it. Those depths are meant to lead somewhere, namely sexual intercourse in marriage.
Emotional Hardship of Dating
That is why I think casual dating or serial dating is either frustratingly superficial or emotionally painful as each one is awakened and then the heart is dropped and the thing is broken. My advice is once you are on a path of sharing your soul with a future soul mate and both are realistically moving toward marriage and the consummation and sexual intercourse, then know that is where you are heading. You are growing a soul union towards sex relations in marriage.
“Don’t awaken in each other desires for union beyond what you can control.”
I don't think there are any emotional or spiritual limits for the engaged couple. In fact, I think it would be a sign of danger if either said during engagement, “There are things about me or emotions that I experience that I can’t let you know now.” I think that would be a sign of mistrust and a sign of hiddenness which should give them pause.
But here is the thing that needs stressing. I am distinguishing the physical display of emotion from the emotion itself. And the guideline, then, would be: Don’t awaken in each other desires for union beyond what you can control. This is different from hiding things. You are not hiding anything. This is a wise, mature, and sober judgment about locations and situations that you know are too explosive for you and your emotions because they could destroy your restraints and then defile the very purity of the gift that you both want to give each other on your wedding night.
So, my answer is, no, I don’t think her are emotional, spiritual limits provided a couple is on their way in growing commitment toward a wedding and a physical union. They need to know the limits of where they can go with themselves before the emotion takes control and forces them into bed with each other.