It is a sin to hold hands before marriage

I am all about not adding to the Law of God. So, in my mind, this is not that.

Hebrews 13.4 says, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled.” The second half of that verse is fairly simple. But the first half seems under-appreciated by most. Is the author of Hebrews simply saying, “If you have no sexual intercourse outside of marriage, then you have completely upheld marriage in God’s eyes”?

My guess is most of you agree that it is more than just the physical act of sexual intercourse that is forbidden outside of marriage. But if you do not guard all of marriage, you will end up drawing arbitrary lines. You will end up asking the (foolish) age-old question, “how far is too far?” like when a drunkard asks “how much wine is too much?” or a sluggard asks “how little work is too little?”

I say, “let marriage be held in honor among all!” Any benefits of marriage outside the covenant of marriage is sin in God’s sight. It does not honor marriage. This includes, and is not limited to, any romantic actions. Our kids are supposed to be able to look across the congregation and be able to tell who is married (or at least engaged) and who is not by the way couples act. We should be scandalized by seeing non-married couples holding hands without a ring on their fingers (or at least a ring on hers).

I fear non-married “couples” are one of the biggest blindspots of our generation. Let me be clear that dating outside of marriage is not sinful (how else are singles to get to know one another?). Romance is. The reason any of you cannot fathom dating without romance is because you are so defiled by our culture’s view of romance outside of marriage being ok! If someone can prove to me that holding hands is necessary to figure out if you want to marry someone, then by all means, I will repent.

But if you are married, and you would never hold hands with someone who is not your spouse, then you already deep down agree with me. Let all of marriage be sacred in your sight. It helps people understand Jesus’ devotion to His bride.

2 responses to “It is a sin to hold hands before marriage

  1. Your premise is stated that all benefits of marriage outside of the covenant of marriage is sin in God’s sight. That is a very bold and exclusive statement. You didn’t say, “some benefits of marriage are sometimes sin when experienced outside of the marriage covenant,” you said all. That means all relational benefits: cognitive, sensual, emotional, psychological, fiscal, and even plutonic connection are entirely off limits.

    How did you arrive at this conclusion? It is a non-sequitur argument to assume that honoring marriage is equivalates to abstaining from all physical affection that displays trust, intent, gentleness, and love. In our culture where marriages are not arranged, love precedes the personal commitment to spend the rest of your life with someone. Displaying love and affection is not sin just because married people do.

    Under your premise, it would seem that to arrive at the simplest physical touch as sinful, then surely the simplest exclusive conversation would be sin? After all, conversations happen with married people and are intimate.

    In your logic:
    Why introduce yourself to someone at all?
    It shows the intent that you want to be known, that you want to be remembered. Taken further, it risks intimacy that you would only want reserved for your spouse– therefore you must abstain from all conversation.

    You can’t have the most simple verbal interaction with the opposite sex (let alone the same sex) because, by the same logic, when taken further, it is now a benefit of marriage.

    It is unreasonable, impossible, and unintended by the author of Hebrews to define honor as “prohibiting all affection and intent”.

    While I see the need for boundaries and mature respect for relationships, I do not see all displays of physical affection as sinful outside of marriage, just as I don’t see many other benefits of marriage as sinful outside of marriage.

    Knowing someone comes with risks.
    Loving someone comes with risks.
    Removing the risks doesn’t make the relationship more pure or holy.

    At some point you have to concede that you take the notion of honor too far by declaring all cognitive, physical, emotional, psychological, fiscal, plutonic knowledge and experience of single people interacting as sinful just because married people experience the same joys.

    You can hold someone’s hand hoping and intending that they will be your wife and have it not work out and not have sinned. It can be an honest and appropriate display of affection and love that is not regrettable.

    It is interesting that you defend the intent of the engaged with repeated exception as though their intent somehow qualifies their display of affection.

    If you date with the intention of finding a lifelong partner to experience the marriage covenant with, you can respect and experience affection and romance without sinning or regretting your display of love for that person.

    Love is NOT exclusive to marriage as much as we wish it was. It would be convenient. But it isn’t reality- and it isn’t the author of Hebrew’s intent to say ALL displays of love are sinful outside of marriage because married people experience them.

    Gosh… This reminds me of college when I would argue with you for hours at night. What a fantastic time we had!!! And you would call me crazy and I would concede a few points but then I would call you crazy and you would have to…

    In this case… Your desire for clarity in a culture of confusion has created a false definition of meaningful interaction and commitment.

    Jerry Rice would agree with me.

    Do you remember ranking swear words in degrees of offensiveness? Oh my gosh the laughter we had in that moment. But our intent was for one another to understand the degree to which our speech carried various levels of impact.

    I propose that in much the same way there are varying degrees of intimacy that have different levels of impact and risk. While we reserve certain words for certain moments and levels of expression, so do the mature reserve displays of affection and commitment for different moments of importance.

    Just as there are levels of seriousness and depth in conversation, so are there appropriate levels of physical touch. I too want clarity in communication. And I do believe it communicates something to hold hands. But I don’t think it communicates the exclusivity of marriage benefit. Let’s pray we all have deeper marriage benefits than holding hands.

    In conclusion, I believe honor in this case means to respect the notion, concept, design, and powerful union of marriage. I think it is quite the illogical leap to state that all benefits of marriage experienced outside of marriage are slap in the face of God’s intentions. As a builder digs deep to build a foundation for a long lasting building, so does a wise man intentionally lay the cornerstones of his marriage. To neglect all affection, intimacy, and romance is to deny the beautiful creativity of love as it develops. I even believe God has a beautiful plan for that to unfold progressively so that two people can arrive at marriage with purity. It would be nice to arrive at marriage without experiencing risk, fear, rejection, and loss.

  2. Yes brother! I’m so happy you chimed in! And some of your comments about our history together made me LOL. I’m going to try and address as much of your points as possible. Please do not give up on this conversation. This back and forth is going to help the Body of Christ.

    You said, ” That means all relational benefits: cognitive, sensual, emotional, psychological, fiscal, and even plutonic connection are entirely off limits.” Your point is well taken. So let me clarify: all the benefits that are exclusive to marriage should stay within marriage. I did not say “intimacy” is off limits. You and I had a level of intimacy when we were roommates. Just good, brotherly intimacy. We knew each other. We love each other as brothers in Christ. So intimacy is not exclusive to marriage. But sex is. And since Paul commanded Timothy to treat younger women as sisters, and since we have no example whatsoever of non-married, non-betrothed “couples” in the Bible, I do think any physical affection toward someone you are not married to is breaking the Law of God.

    Since you asked twice about engagement, let me say that a common view of engagement seems warped by society as well. I think you would agree with me that engagement should be two people who are ready to get married today. Just for logistical reasons we often delay it to plan a wedding. But Christian engagements should not be long at all. If you’re not ready to get married, don’t get engaged. Right? And if that’s so, then our understanding of engagement should be quasi-betrothal (which if you ask a Jew, they would tell you that betrothal is the first year of marriage). So, because it is quasi marriage, I can see romantic affections being a good thing in engagement.

    You also said, “Love is NOT exclusive to marriage as much as we wish it was. It would be convenient. But it isn’t reality- and it isn’t the author of Hebrew’s intent to say ALL displays of love are sinful outside of marriage because married people experience them.” I’m not sure why you concede “as much as we wish it was.” If you mean what it sounds like, then you agree with me. If not, please clarify. And to the rest of this point, it just depends what you mean by love. I agree that all love is not exclusive to marriage. I’m just arguing that displays of marital love are.

    You also say, “One can honor marriage and still express relational commitment before marriage and not sin. It isn’t a sin to love someone and declare it, only to find out that ultimately it would be a toxic relationship and not be married.” I would argue that relational commitment before engagement/marriage is a farce. You are pretending to be committed, but you are not. That’s why God gave us the marital covenant, as the place to display actual commitment. It seems most people just want the benefits, without the commitment. Our culture has created a whole system (called girlfriends and boyfriends) so that we can cheat God out of the glory of marital commitment.

    Also the whole idea of “find out that ultimately it would be a toxic relationship” is shaky. It is only “toxic” if a Christian marries a non-Christian or if one or both parties are not serious about their relationship with God. You don’t need to hold hands to find that out, do you?

    That should be enough fodder for now. Two last things: one, I am repenting of not doing it this way before I was married. So I am not professing to have done this, just trying to figure out God’s will. Two, do not speak the name of Jerry Rice unless you intend to cheer for his former team from now on!

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