Question:

First, I want to thank you for a beautiful, wonderful site. I'm a young Christian, growing in the Lord. I have a girlfriend. We love each other and I desire to marry young, as soon as possible. We've been dating for two month now, but we have known each other for three years. I want to know how long is the engagement supposed to last, and is it advisable, or is it a sin, for my girl and me to kiss each other in a very deep way? It is not oral sex but just kissing for hours and touching each other in a sexual manner.

Answer:

There is no fixed time for an engagement. I generally recommend a year, but much depends on the maturity of the couple and how well they really know each other. Since I don't know either of you, how old you are, or what region you live, I can't comment whether any other factors might come into play in regards to when to get married.

I would strongly recommend that you study about marriage in detail with someone. There are so many details which rarely cross young peoples' minds regarding marriage which need to be covered. It is better to learn in advance than to attempt to correct basic mistakes after the fact.

Now regarding the other matter, I must warn you that you are playing with fire. "Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman" (I Corinthians 7:1). By "touching" Paul is talking about sexual touching. Two people who are not married should not be arousing sexual passion in each other. Your bodies are designed to desire sex and when you start the process, the natural inclination of your bodies is to complete the act. Yes, I know so far you've managed to resist, but is it not true that over the last few months you've been going further with each other? Such is the nature of sin, to push the limits just a little bit more while justifying it to yourself that nothing bad happened last time. Eventually you will go too far and begin committing fornication.

There is an additional danger when you are engaged to someone. You become more relaxed with the person and don't keep the guards against sin up as you ought. It is easy to fool yourself to take more liberties than you should because "After all, we will eventually get married." Before you know it, you'll be writing to me about the "accident" that you had because things went too far and it "just happened."

There are reasons for the restrictions. You and she are not married yet. It is your hope to get married, but until you seal yourselves together in a wedding covenant, you have no business tempting each other with sex because you are tempting the one you claim to love with sin. Love "does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil" (I Corinthians 13:5). If you give in, you will cause numerous problems with your relationship. The aspect of trust is undermined because if you can't keep yourself pure before marriage, why would you expect the other to remain faithful after the marriage. A more subtle problem is your view of sex. People who engage in sex before marriage typically have self-gratification as a major motive, but in a marriage sex is supposed to be something you do to benefit the other person. "Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband" (I Corinthians 7:3).

If the pressure is too much and in all other ways you are prepared for marriage, then you are better off going ahead and getting married. Moving up the wedding date is better than undermining your relationship with sin. "But if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion" (I Corinthians 7:9).

With no further argument and reasoning, what you said is right; no one questions God. It must be taken as it is. Thank you for that informative reply. It really gave me a clear picture now. About studying marriage with someone, I'll definitely do that; it's a good thing to do.

My girlfriend and I are almost twenty. We desire to get married after we turn twenty-one. That's when we even desire to move in together, but all that we desire is to do all things for the Lord.

Thanks for your reply again. I would like to know what are the things we can do to keep each other in good company and still enjoy our relationship in the Lord with purity. As a couple we can't wait to marry and we really don't want to mess things up.

Marriage isn't about sex. Sex comes within a marriage, but it isn't how a marriage is built. I would like you to read something I wrote a while back to explain this to another young man. See: Marriage's Glue. What both of you should be focusing on is becoming each other's best friends. Work together on projects, do things together as a couple, and at the same time treat each other with great respect.

Because you plan to marry this woman, you should be working hard to maintain her honor. So don't do things where gossip might spread that she is having sex with you. Don't go into her house alone or she into your house. When you are together, make sure other people are around. One of my favorite memories of the time before I married was a date where we asked an elderly Christian widow to join us in eating out at a fancy restaurant which was good ways out of the way. It was a chance for both of us to honor her (she was everyone's grandmother at the congregation and often had us over for meals) and she served as a chaperone for the trip and entertained us with stories of her youth.

It doesn't mean you never have time alone with her, but you can be "alone" while out in public places. What you need to do is reduce temptations to go further than you should. I hope it is clear that you don't move in together until after you are married. Then, after the wedding, you can relax and enjoy learning each other's bodies.