Embracing and Refraining

image_ps9nxpI have always been astonished at the wisdom that abounds in the words of scripture. Not because I am by any means surprised that God is capable of giving it to us, but I simply enjoy sitting back and watching how things always seem turn out for the better in our lives when we take into consideration and apply His philosophy for living.

In keeping with the theme “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven”, one bit of wisdom that He gives us is the idea that there is “A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing”.

How could this apply in the dating relationship? In the physical relationship between guy and girl, it is apparent from scripture that God has set certain boundaries. Obviously the big word “fornication” is something that God wants us to avoid. Fornication is defined as “voluntary sexual intercourse between persons not married to each other”. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 tells us “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication”. There is a time when “embracing” in sexual intercourse is appropriate, and there is a time when this must be something we refrain from.

But why you might ask? Why would God make such a command? And how does God expect us to overcome this so very common and difficult temptation, even if we want to? First of all, I believe it is important for us to look at God’s original plan for man and woman. 1 Corinthians 7:2 tells us “Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.” God has specified this particular activity for a specific relationship. Unfortunately, as our society downplays the importance of marriage and promotes the sin of fornication, the idea of marriage is becoming more and more underrated and belittled. Not only are young people pushed to continue their education later into their 20’s, but because so much emphasis is put on “dating around” and long engagements, people are finding it harder and harder to abstain from sexual activity before marriage. I believe fully that God never meant for individuals to have to burn in lust for one another while they wait years and years to get married. 

But for some, the honest truth may be: “I’m nowhere ready for marriage”. If this is the case, how are we supposed to refrain when the ultimate and eventual answer (marriage) is far from our maturity level or readiness? Well let us switch gears for a moment. Thus far, we have considered a “time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing” as two separate times (married and not married). But what if we consider the SAME point in time (the present) as BOTH a time for embracing AND a time for refraining from embracing? Contradiction? Consider….

For unmarried couples and single individuals, we have already established through God’s word that their current relationship status is a time for refraining from sexual embraces. But in order to refrain, you MUST also embrace. In order to refrain FROM embracing each other, we must commit TO embracing God. I’m not talking about a simple acknowledgment of His presence and desire for our purity. I mean ACTIVELY engaging Him WITH EACH OTHER. We’ve heard it said that “idle time is the devil’s playground.” YOU CANNOT RESIST BEING HIT BY A TRAIN IF YOU ARE STANDING ON THE TRACKS. Sitting alone in a car in a deserted place with nothing to do but make googly eyes at each other is a bad decision. But refraining from embracing in every situation in which we find ourselves alone is near impossible without having something else to fill that idle time or empty space. So why not fill it with God?

James 4:7-8 speaks of resisting the devil and drawing near to God. Those two statements are presented as separate commands but do NOT work apart from one another. By way of illustration: in order to not grab Satan, we must fill our hands with God. The verse carries the idea that if we have filled our hands completely with Him, we will have no room left in our hands for carrying anything else. The point is that completely resisting something is not feasible without replacing its void with something else. If we try to simply stop thinking about lustful desires or stop embracing in ways that we shouldn’t, we will find it very difficult. Instead, we should try to refrain from impurity BY embracing our abilities to give the gift of purity to the person we love. We should refrain from spiritual disaster and regret BY embracing spiritual growth and peace of mind together. We should refrain from impure thoughts BY embracing what is lovely and of good report (Phil. 4:8). We should refrain from the temptations of the devil BY embracing the helping hand of God. We should study with one another and actively pursue each other’s spiritual wellbeing by praying together and talking about our issues instead of letting them burn inside until they boil over.

There is indeed a time for embracing and a time to refrain from embracing. But often, both of these times are RIGHT NOW. In order to refrain from embracing one thing, we MUST embrace another. Resist the devil. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.

Sarah Hall
About Sarah Hall 5 Articles
Sarah is a graduate of Freed Hardeman University and has been married to her husband, Jeremy, since 2008. They have twin boys and worship with the Millview church of Christ, where he serves as the pulpit minister.

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