This passage falls into a section of 1 Corinthians sometimes labeled, “The Believer’s Freedom.” I often hear it used to rationalize or refute one’s actions. Even though Paul spoke this to the Corinthians in regards to eating, this verse can also shed light upon the question of vacationing with an unmarried person of the opposite sex.
Paul seems to be saying in one breath, “Do anything you want, it is okay,” yet in another, “That may not be such a good idea.” Our initial belief or opinion often dictates which statement we put more emphasis on.
A younger (or less mature) person may receive this counsel, focus on the former part, and use it to justify their actions. An adult (or mature believer) should focus on the latter, taking the time to consider the ramifications of their decisions and ensure their actions are both beneficial and constructive.
I’m going to get straight to the point: unmarried Christian couples holidaying alone together is a really bad idea.
Before I go on, let me clarify. I am talking to Christian couples. I assume that Christian couples are committed to sexual purity before marriage. If you are reading this and not Christian, this isn’t a word for you (though by all means keep on reading). I am also talking about unmarried couples. That includes engaged but not-yet-married ones. Furthermore, the issue is holidaying alone. I have less of an issue if they are with other Christian couples and definitely no problem if they are holidaying with one of the couple’s family, or if there’s a chaperone. No problem there.
Okay, now that’s settled, let me keep going…
I know all the arguments for this practice. And it seems to me that it’s growing in popularity among young adults in churches. Some of the reasons I’ve heard are: “It’s not like we’ll be sharing a room.” “Don’t you trust us?” “I know couple x and y and they did it and they were okay.” “Where in the Bible does it say we can’t do this?” etc. etc.
Here are some reasons I would still strongly advise against it: (And at the risk of sounding harsh, I may actually remove someone from leadership if, against all advice, they still went ahead and did it.)
- Don’t trust yourselves. Friends, the heart is deceitful beyond all things (Jer. 17:9). The devil, your flesh and the world are against you. 1 Peter 5:8 tells us that ‘your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.’ In sum, no, I don’t trust you and neither should you trust yourself. Don’t trust yourself that, in a place of no accountability, under some beautiful starry moonlight night, when you’re both tired and maybe had a few drinks, you’re not going to seriously compromise your sexual purity. Don’t trust yourself.
- God doesn’t want us just to be minimalists in obedience. The ‘how far before I cross the line’ mentality behind these kinds of holidays is flawed to begin with. This is what the Pharisees did. In contrast Jesus called on them to go for maximum heart-obedience. You might set all these artificial lines for yourself, such as: ‘If we were sharing a bed/room, then that wouldn’t be okay; but if we’re not sharing a room, then it’s okay.’ Jesus said, ‘If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. If your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out.’ (Matt. 5:29-30) Elsewhere, we’re called to flee temptation (2 Tim. 2:22). Friends, don’t be a legalist and a minimalist. Figure out the kind of life that pleases the Lord and pursue that maximally.
- We are called as Christians to be above reproach (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 2:7-8). This is a call for church leaders in particular (and that’s why I may remove someone from leadership over this). Our reputation with outsiders matter… a lot! When your unbelieving friends hear that you’re holidaying alone together, their assumption is that you’ll be sharing a room, having a ‘romantic time’, sexually compromising in all sorts of ways. Now of course you can take the time and effort to explain: ‘No, we’ll be sleeping in separate rooms; we’ll keep our hands off each other; we’ll have a curfew; we won’t get drunk…’ But are you going to be able to explain that to all the outsiders you know? Furthermore, is it going to be convincing, or just sound to them like you really want to do what everyone else does but want to save a little bit of moral integrity? Again, why not aim for ‘above and beyond reproach’? Your Lord Jesus’ reputation is on the line. Why not instead give no one any cause to whisper or doubt?
- You can wait. You really can. Our generation is particularly bad at ‘delayed gratification’. My fear is that God’s people are, on this issue, just becoming more and more like the world. Why can’t you wait for marriage to have that holiday alone? It really is much more gratifying then, believe me! You can share a room, share a bed, share lots of romantic moments, and (sorry for the crassness) ‘go at it like rabbits’… all for the glory of God! Is waiting a year, two years, however long, really that much of a problem given you might have a lifetime together?
- Fight the idol of pleasure at any cost. Yes we Christians are being sucked into the hedonism of our world. And we need to actively fight the idolatry of pleasure, which in recent decades, because of wealth and cheaper airfares, is this thing called ‘travel’. Travel isn’t wrong. There are lots of good and pleasurable things about it. But any good thing becomes a ‘god-thing’ when you are willing to sacrifice more important things for it. What are you putting on the altar of this false god? Your reputation? Your purity? Your example and model to younger Christians? Friends, it’s not worth it. Know that there is a greater pleasure in waiting and pursuing God’s will for you with all of your heart.