I’m a balance between an emotional feeler and a logical thinker. For this reason, I have a creatively analytical imagination. As a young boy, I carried one of my Dad’s old briefcases around the house, pretending to be a businessman, just like him. Stocked full of scrap paper, a few old pens, even a stapler, in my young mind, I was, through the imaginative element of pretend, a businessman.

Pretend is defined as speaking and acting so as to make it appear that something is the case when in fact it’s not.  Whether you’re more of an emotional feeler or a logical thinker, one’s imagination can easily deceive, especially when it comes to sexual encounters while dating.

Many of us have a longing to marry.  After all, marriage is the closest human relationship you’ll have to the oneness your heart experiences with Christ.  And, the underlying longing can transfer to a desire to be as close as possible to someone you believe you’re falling in love with. However, you may inadvertently disrespect and dishonor your future spouse prematurely by “togethering” in a manner God never intended for you to experience before marriage.

Pretend can manifest itself through words, behavior, and physical touch in a dating relationship. Worldview dating often embodies marital fragments of emotional vulnerability combined with sexual intimacy.  Our world is saturated in sexting, flirt-apps, self-objectifying selfies, and media messages proclaiming, “do what feels good”. It’s expected that the enticements of our world would infect dating relationships with sexual exploration and “togethering”. However, it’s severely naïve to believe those who call themselves Christ followers are immune from sexual unhealthiness, which has the potential to affect a future marriage relationship.  

Pretend intimacy deceives Christian dating couples…

Pretend intimacy deceives Christian dating couples, feeding the lie that God’s guidelines designed to protect us from harm are obsolete, and the ultimate picture of intimacy before marriage is entitled. We seldom explore God-designed intimacy through the lens of vulnerability, self-disclosure, deep-rooted conversations, and the repair of disagreements, which are critical for relationship development.  More often than not, Christian dating couples jointly fabricate Biblical loopholes in their definition of intimacy, to justify sex before marriage.

Loophole statements include:  “That’s not how we interpret Scripture,” “We’re married in God’s eyes” “It’s only sexting,” or “That isn’t sex”, and they lack the essence of gratitude for Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. This means we’re pursuing our identity and spiritual fulfillment through a person, rather than Christ.

Cohabitation is another loophole, which increases the odds of divorce exponentially. Research has documented and supported this data for more than 30 years, but no one discusses this detrimental outcome on social media. Cohabitating or not, the array of premarital sex acts, sexually-explicit conversation and even sexting, activates the brain’s stimuli responsible for sexual arousal often stunting relationship growth.

Les Parrott's Making Happy
Get more — Free! e-booklet — Les Parrott's Making Happy

The ranges of sexual behaviors are explicit reflections of moral infidelity. Loving Jesus requires obeying His guidance for living and loving well in a fallen world (John 14:15): Moral infidelity is sin (1 Thes. 4:3-5); sex is reserved for marriage to protect us, not inhibit us (1 Cor. 7); and self-control is necessary for emotional and behavioral growth (1 Cor.6:12-20).  When you seek loopholes in God’s Word regarding your egotistical sexual appetite, you open the door to abusing one of God’s sons or daughters.

So, stop pretending and get serious. Loving the opposite sex demands dual responsibility (Rom. 12:5). If seriously dating  and contemplating engagement ask: “How can I respect and honor my future spouse?” (If you two marry, it’s a win-win.) If casually dating, ask: “How can I respect and honor my future spouse through what I speak, text, think, share, snap, click, post, wear and view?”

Past sexual sin? God forgives, redeems, and restores (1 John 1:9). Dying to existing sin, however, is vital (Eph. 4:22).

“Without a heart transformed by the grace of Christ, we just continue to manage external and internal darkness.” -Pastor Matt Chandler, The Explicit Gospel

Copyright (c) 2024 Zack Carter, used with permission.

Zack Carter is an associate professor of communication at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina. He specializes in social relationship psychology, with a heart for relationship cohesion and boundaries, especially in marriage, family, and dating. He is happily married to his lovely wife, Stacey, and they have one adorable daughter and two sweet pups.