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Is heavy petting (without intercourse) a sin?

The Bible teaches us that God Himself designed sex and sexual intimacy including intercourse for man’s blessing and enjoyment in addition to procreation. But the Bible is equally firm in teaching that this is to be confined to marriage where two people are committed to each other.

In the general context of Scripture, such intimate acts outside of marriage are wrong because it can excite both partners so that it breaks down their defenses. Scripture does not need to say, ‘thou shalt not kiss or engage in heavy petting unless married’ in order for it to be contrary to God’s will and wisdom. But in this case, there are plenty of passages that clearly apply. For instance, we are warned against flirting with temptation. The biblical and godly response for those who care about the other person and about God’s will and desire to please Him is to flee temptation. This is a command in Scripture. Compare the following:

Now flee from youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart (2 Tim. 2:22).

Contrary to the claims of our president about sex, kissing and heavy petting is sexual and a part of the sexual relationship of intimacy called foreplay. In discussing the beauty of sexual intimacy and how it can be a magnet that protects us from adultery, the writer of Proverbs had the following to say … and note in this he is talking about one’s wife:

Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice in the wife of your youth. 19 As a loving hind and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; Be exhilarated always with her love. 20 For why should you, my son, be exhilarated with an adulteress, And embrace the bosom of a foreigner? (Prov. 5:18-20).

But then note what follows:

For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the Lord, And He watches all his paths. 22 His own iniquities will capture the wicked, And he will be held with the cords of his sin (Prov. 5:21-22).

Yes, heavy petting is sin apart from the marriage bond. We may try to rationalize and explain away the need for moral purity and avoiding temptation, but God not only sees all we do and think, but He declares that such foolish behavior has destructive and dominating consequences. This type of personal intimacy is self-centered outside of marriage. It uses others for selfish and exploitative purposes, and not only can it get out of hand, but can become explosive. Heavy petting is a part of foreplay and is designed to arouse sexual desire in preparation for intercourse—something that is to be saved for marriage.

God says, “flee temptation,” but this is flirting with temptation. And Christ tells us that if a man even looks on a woman with a view to fornication, it is the same as committing the act. Such behavior outside of marriage shows that a one’s primary focus is sexual and selfish rather than a spiritual/soul relationship in which you get to know the other person and are concerned about what is best for them.

We can know how God feels about this subject because He has clearly spoken of the dangers and evils of sex outside of marriage in any form. Listen to what Scripture says in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8.

4:1 Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that, as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you may excel still more. 2 For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. 8 Consequently, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.

For a detailed study on this passage see An Exegetical and Devotional Commentary on 1 Thessalonians on our web site. Also there are a number of books on the market that deal with a Christian perspective of dating and building relationships that would be helpful if you are sincere in desiring to please the Lord in this area. One such book is Why Wait?: What You Need to Know About the Teen Sexual Crisis, by Josh McDowell.

Related Topics: Love