By Dr. Roger Barrier, Crosswalk.com
I am 69 and single. I met a woman who is 70. We are both believers. What does the Bible say about physical affection for people of our age? I know intercourse is intended to be within marriage, but what does God say about kissing, hugging, cuddling, touching, foot massage, back massage, and such outside of marriage?
I know the use of the word “lust,” but I am not talking about that. I am hoping for an intimacy with someone that is on a more spiritual level. I remember what it was like to feel so deeply in love that you want to express it in a way that only God can do from the way He designed it in our bodies. The older I get, the more it feels like affection is a physical, emotional, and spiritual gift that God gives us—and one that I hope it’s ok to express with this woman that I love. We have only kissed once, and it felt like something deeper. It drew us both closer to each other and closer to God.
Thank you, Thomas
We all need intimacy and affection at any age. I recently read a Harvard study that says more than 80% of senior adults struggle with feelings of isolation and loneliness. I am so glad you have companionship in your life. However, I’d like to give you a few thoughts to ponder as you consider your expression of physical affection.
From the very beginning, God created you for companionship. I always come back to Genesis 2:18, where God tells Adam that “It is not good for you to be alone. I will make a helper fit for you.” Every person has needs like acceptance, approval, affection, respect, and support … as well as many others. God designed us to meet those needs through our relationships.
If you have lost a mate or choose to remain single, God can and will provide other people in your life to meet your needs. Even late in life, He sometimes provides another mate or deep friendship for us—and one of the best ways to have your needs met is to meet those needs in others first.
However, let me address the specific issues you’re facing. Here are some guidelines you and your friend should both consider about the state of your physical relationship.
1. Do you have a clear conscience?
If you violate your conscience by pursuing a sexually impure relationship, you will hurt your spiritual life and you will hinder God’s blessings on your friendship. Remember, the word “conscience” is “sunooid” or “to see together with God.” You need to seek His perspective. As you pray about moving forward with your significant other, don’t listen to the world; listen to the Holy Spirit.
2. Do you have companionship and accountability with Christian friends and/or family?
Remember Hebrews 10:25, which says, “Let us not neglect our church meetings, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near.”
Jesus provided the church—your brothers and sisters in Christ—to encourage you and to keep you accountable in your Christian walk. I would recommend that you both connect with godly men and women to help you seek God about this relationship.
3. What kind of physical relationship is appropriate outside of marriage?
The Bible is very clear on this issue. Check out Hebrews 13; “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. … Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Hebrews 13:1, 4).
I deduce from this passage, and from human physiology, that the conduct you described in your relationship is foreplay. You do not need to remove clothing, or to engage in sexual advances to be out of control or wanting more.
My seminary professor was teaching on lust. One of the students in the class asked him “At what age you must you be to stop lusting after women?” The eighty-year-old professor replied, “I’ll let you know!”
“Jesus said, “The laws of Moses said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say: Anyone who even looks at a woman with lust in his eye has already committed adultery with her in his heart’” (Matthew 5:27-28).
If your physical affection is escalating, it will inevitably lead to something more. That’s how God designed our bodies to work—to give and receive physical and emotional satisfaction to and from one another. And it’s a great gift within the bounds of marriage!
4. Is marriage an option?
Why don’t you marry her?
I know that widows and widowers can have complex inheritance agreements with their heirs. Sometimes the family will not agree to remarriage. In this case, you might want to look at what the Bible says about a pre-nuptial agreement. This article will help.
Also, if you have had a successful marriage, you are used to the sweet intimacy that union provides. That makes it even more difficult to stay pure. If the door is open for both of you, let me encourage you to enjoy the God-given joy and intimacy of marriage.
My wife and I fell in love at first sight. Her father told us we had to wait four years, or I would have to pay her very expensive college tuition. We waited. We stayed pure, even when it wasn’t easy. And I’m so glad we did.
You are not getting any younger. I understand that. But now is the time to have a clean conscience before God. Love her in the right way, and God can deepen that relationship more than you can imagine!
I hope this helps.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/simpson
Dr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his 35-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.
Editor's Note: This Ask Roger article features insights from Roger's daughter, Brie Barrier Wetherbee, a sought-after Bible teacher and conference speaker, author, analyst, and Christian theologian.
Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at [email protected].