Engagement Conduct

 •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 10
"Is it permissible for a young man to caress a young lady to whom he is not engaged? What would be proper conduct before and after engagement?"
ANSWER: Caressing is a display of human affection one for another. It is indeed a beautiful thing in its proper place. God Himself has placed affection in the human breast, and He has given us the capabilities of showing it, but surely it is to be done with propriety and discretion. The practice of promiscuous caressing in this day has brought it down from its lofty place to a cheap fleshly indulgence.
In every several relationship there is becoming conduct for one who seeks to walk in the fear of God and pleasing to the Lord. For instance, there is the affection that belongs to the relationship of parents to children, and children to parents; and to lack natural affection is not of God—it is one of the signs of the last days (2 Tim. 3:33Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, (2 Timothy 3:3)). But even between parents and children there is a becoming demonstration of love and affection that should not be violated, nor should it be indulged in by those who are not in that relationship.
Then there are the displays of affection that properly and only belong to the relationship of husband and wife. There is that which is suitable in those whom "God hath joined together," but even in marriage there is to be propriety as Heb. 13:44Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. (Hebrews 13:4) admonishes: "Let marriage be held in every way in honor" (see New Translation). Carelessness in observing these distinctions, and laxity in showing becoming conduct and proper delicacy have brought sorrow into many hearts.
There is also a suitable display of affection in those who have become engaged and are pledged to marry each other, but which would be entirely out of place in those not betrothed. It should, however, be remembered that persons who are engaged are not actually married, and that every display of affection for each other should be conducted with self-restraint and wise discretion. (In the "young man's book"—Proverbs—discretion is referred to a number of times.) How much better, safer, and happier to refrain from overstepping the bounds of propriety, and to enjoy only what is suitable, while anticipating the time when affection can be displayed more fully. Those who guard themselves in this are not losers, and when the proper time comes for a fuller display of affection they have an increased joy in that which has been kept pure. "He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered." Pro. 2:8:26.
For those who are not engaged the rule of "hands off" certainly is wise and safe. Oh how much sorrow Christians have brought on themselves (and dishonor to the Lord) by overstepping what is becoming and allowing mere fleshly indulgence. Satan is ever ready to set a trap for our feet, and he uses the "lusts of the flesh" very successfully. It is one of the marks of the "children of wrath" that they fulfill the "desires of the flesh and of the mind" (Eph. 2:33Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. (Ephesians 2:3)). But we are exhorted to "abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul" (1 Pet. 2:1111Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; (1 Peter 2:11)).
We should also remember that marriage is the blessed type of Christ and the Church. The man represents Christ, who has loved the Church and given Himself for it; and if a man plays with affections and trifles with that which is sacred, he most surely is not true to that which he should display; nor is a young sister true to being a type of the Church in single-eyed espousal to Christ if she allows or receives embraces and intimate attentions from others than her own husband, or husband-to-be—in the latter case with due limitations. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." 2 Cor. 11:22For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:2).
These remarks will not square with either the general ideas or practice in the world, but when has the world ever been able to set a suitable standard of conduct for the children of God? The world is hastening on to its doom and is daily increasing in moral laxity and depravity, but God has called us out of it to Himself. May we remember the words of our Lord Jesus as He prayed to His Father (John 17); He made a great distinction between the world and those who were His, and He desired that we should be kept from the evil. It would be well for us to read carefully the fifth chapter of Ephesians where
we are called to be imitators of God while in this morally dark scene; we are to avoid all uncleanness, have no fellowship with it, walk as children of light, and be
circumspect and wise. May the Lord give u s HIS thoughts of what is becoming of those who are thus called out of this world to Him who is holy.