Travelling together is a great joy but also often hard. I’ve been sometimes with best friends travelling, sometimes alone, sometimes with family or even sometimes with randomers. 24 hours a day together with anyone can be tricky!
Here, while I sit in the airport, I include some thoughts from a friend who was recently asked about Christian couples going on holiday together. I don’t normally venture on such specifics on here (and won’t much in future), but currently this a huge thing in Cork, so I hope it’s helpful!
A lot of dating couples in our church go away on trips and holidays together. [My boyfriend] and I
were wondering about doing the same but are unsure if it’s wrong to do so. What do you think?
Thanks for messaging me your question. I want to respond to you about vacations specifically, but I also want to write to you about the bigger question of dating in a way that pleases God. To most of cuture, your question is laughable. ‘Why shouldn’t couples take vacations alone together?!’ But our answer here is nuanced, as the Christian understanding of sex and romance is very different from that of popular culture.
There is nothing in the Bible that directly says that Holidays together are wrong – and it not for me to tighten the protestant strings of your conscience till they vibrate wildly like some spectral zither. So be at peace. But there are two warnings I want to give. The first one I’ll just mention and then spend most of the time on the second. First of all, when unmarried couples take holidays together, buy big presents together and spend loads of disposable time together in an exclusive way – they are mimicking marriage. But they’re not married. As Christians, they may not be having sex, but socially and in every other respect they are acting like a married couple. They put off real marriage for reasons of time, money or other things that usually aren’t that substantial. It’s risky emotionally and socially. If this couple doesn’t end up married, but rather break-up, it will be a nightmare for them. You are single till you publically exchange your vows. Since this guy is just your boyfriend – not your husband – may I ask why you want to go on holiday together (alone) in the first place? Why not with a group of friends?
But my main point isn’t to critique dating couples who engage in a chaste ‘mini-marriage’ type relationship. What you and your boyfriend need to consider (and you probably are) is the risk of sinning sexually, ie ‘fornication’. Now, fornication may be a new F-word for you. It is sex for two unmarried people (as opposed to adultery which is married people having sex with someone other than their spouse). Not all Christian dating couples who go away on holiday together end up fornicating and there are plenty who fornicate without going away.
As Christians, our greatest goal is to please God and our greatest fear is to offend him. We are a counter-cultural movement and the lie we fight in today’s culture is this: fornication is fun, not fatal. What is grievous, is that so many of us flirt with this lie. Fornication – like all forms of sexual sin – is spiritually deadly. Read slowly what God has to say about it:
‘Flee from sexual immorality.
All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually,
sins against their own body.’
-1 Cor 6
‘But fornication and any impurity or greed should not even be heard of among you.’
‘For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from fornication.’
– 1 Thessalonians 4
Sin is far more deadly than arsenic or uranium. It took the death of the Eternal Son of God to provide a medicine strong enough to overcome its effects. Does God forgive all sin – including sexual sin? Yes, if the repentance is contrite and sincere. But the same Jesus, who says to the woman caught in the act of adultery, ‘I do not condemn you’ immediately says to her, ‘Go and sin no more.’ (John 8)
So, you two must ask yourselves: will taking a holiday alone together put the two of us in a position where we are tempted to offend God with our bodies (think beaches, swimsuits, cocktails, etc)? If so, don’t do it. Dating people need a plan on how to please God in the conduct of their romantic relationships before they marry – whether on holiday or not
Josh is the pastor of Therfield Chapel, south of Cambridge and former Student Pastor at St. Nic’s, Nottingham. He is author of ‘Forbidden Friendships’ and ‘The Cross and the Cannibal’. When I was at university (and he a pastor nearby), our theological differences (and my immaturity) used to mean I didn’t do much more than give him funny looks from time to time. Now I hope I see him more, as a partner in the good news together, on which we agree on 95% of things. And the other 5% we probably still strongly disagree on, but they don’t matter as much!