The Anatomy of Sexual Impurity in Courtship

Guest Posts | Marriage | Single life
This is a guest post by Lawrence Namale, a life coach and speaker. I invited Lawrence share a follow-up post on a recent article on Purity. Lawrence likes to tell at as it is, enjoy the read! More about Lawrence at the end of the post.


I read a story some years back about a certain man who had a heart for lepers. He loved them so much that he went to live amongst them, ministering to them as their pastor.

That was way before the advancement we’ve seen today in medicine.

One day, as he was pouring hot tea from his kettle, a drop fell on his foot…and he felt nothing!

He had contracted the dreaded disease.

The anatomy of sexual impurity in courtship

Later on as he went about serving at the pulpit, he started his address thus; “Fellow Lepers…

Not one leper noticed what had taken place until much later!

As we continue with this timeless message of purity (read previous posts here and here) amongst dating/courting couples, there are two lessons that we can draw from the story of the Leper Minister.

What we can learn

First, nothing messes up a courtship like impurity.

Like leprosy, impurity is a silent disease that eats up the psyche of those involved.

Most Christian couples who nurture impurity are literally rotting at their core and they know it.

Now they can either seek immediate respite, according to scripture, or they can silence the voice of conviction and conscience.

Silencing the voice of conscience does not mean that the leprosy (impurity) is dead…it’s still alive, just not acknowledged.

Second, the subtlety of the erosion of purity…the lowering of standards not just from generation to the next, but from one action to the next makes it deadly.

An example; family TV.

A generation ago, I could not watch some commercials on TV with my dad and mum. They were too suggestive and full of sexual innuendo.

But the TV ads kept coming. And the more they kept coming, the more we got used to them…until it was no longer uncomfortable.

In fact it became so comfortable to watch the once ‘forbidden’ that it formed a platform for the next ‘more forbidden’ thing on TV.

What happened then? The cycle repeated itself and soon enough, the more forbidden was now a comfort.

Meanwhile, the ‘first forbidden’ is now so acceptable that it does not abuse the senses anymore…it simply goes unnoticed.

The culture

So let’s talk about culture here: People say that the Western world is more “advanced”, and things like kissing, petting and other amorous activities amongst courting couples is “normal”.

Well, let me put it to you that when it comes to purity, culture can never take pre-eminence.

Purity is universal.

Let me explain further: A large percentage of Christians desire to live in purity before marriage.

It’s not an obligation, it’s a heart-felt desire. However, a good percentage Christian singles fall along the way.



Here’s how it looks

The anatomy of sexual impurity in courtship

The anatomy of sexual impurity amongst courting couples:

Phase 1: The Thought:

I think it is OK to hold her hand…I will give it a try next time we are together”.

This thought is especially powerful when you don’t have any set standards regarding boundaries.

You have ‘pressure thoughts’ from what you see in society, you think there is something you are not doing to add value to your relationship.

But such like thoughts can easily be nipped in the bud by setting boundaries as a person and as a couple.

Phase 2: The Awkward:

Thoughts become things…goes the famous adage.

So next time you are with her, you actually reach out to hold her hand.

And it’s awkward. (for most people anyway). Your blood is pumping through your veins at 480 mph. You don’t know what she will say..or think.. of you.

It’s not a comfortable phase.

But the discomfort doesn’t last long.

Question: Is it wrong to hold hands? Answer: Read on.

Phase 3: The Sweetness:

If successful, the awkward phase passes with time.

The more you hold her hand, the more comfortable it becomes. You now savor the sweetness of the moment.

Every time you hold her hand, something happens. Some sensations. Some niceness, some sweetness. It becomes like the highlight of enjoying one another.

Phase 4: The Settling:

This is after a few weeks of practice; your heart slows down.  it was awkward…even a bit scary at first. But today, you are just going through the motions.

It is expected of you. What was awkward now is now normal.

In fact, it is so normal that the sensations you used to have are no longer there…or at least they are not enough.

Phase 5: The Longing:

Remember the rush of adrenaline when you first held her hand? It is no longer there. The hand holding is not serving you any more.

You now long for something else that will serve it. You begin to think on and welcome thoughts of the next level.

You entertain thoughts of wrapping your arm around her waist or shoulders.

Phase 6: The Cycle Begins again:

You wrap your arm around her shoulders.

You’ve graduated – you can now hold hands and wrap hands on her shoulders. You can use it interchangeably but chances are that the new will dominate.

Before long, your mind is numbed once more and you are now ready to graduate.

How about a full hug?

Let’s do it for at least one minute? Add a back rub to it…how about playing little games like tickling…then let’s throw in a peck while we are at it..

You get my point.

Question: Is it wrong to hold hands, no matter the culture? I hope you now know the answer.

What breaks this cycle?

One word: Standards! Boundaries! (Ngina here- Get married! don’t court forever! 🙂

Question: What do you think about these phases, what are your thoughts on purity?

Check out previous posts –  Purity, does it matter anymore? Also Is there hope after sexual sin?

About Lawrence: Lawrence is a husband, dad, mobile money expert, life coach, speaker and former radio host.  He blogs at Life Signatures where he inspires Hope and enriches lives. His new book “Setbacks to Comebacks” will be out shortly.


  1. Honestly, for me – the reason I didn’t save myself all the way until marriage did not follow this progression at all. It was a little lust, but I’d been able to take those thoughts captive for years . . . I gave up trying because I felt as though God had given up on me. After waiting for over 24 years just to be kissed, I no longer felt it was worth waiting if my waiting wouldn’t eventually be rewarded. That thought was based on my legalistic idea that IF I obeyed all the rules, I would be rewarded in due time with what I wanted – like a God genie . . . and that’s not how it works. And I’d be willing to wager that is common for a lot of people – they just give up trying. Yes, some people are consumed by lust but not willing to get married (as Paul recommends) . . . but many WANT to get married, have no real prospects and just give up waiting for God’s best because they think that marriage is THE reward for being pure. Marriage has been set up as an idol for many (myself having been included in that) by a well-meaning church trying to fight against the devaluation of marriage by society at large . . . but it has it’s own consequences when a legalistic idea of purity and reward is set up along with that idol. Just my two cents, having been there.

    1. Great thoughts Amy, thank you for adding to the conversation. I love what you’ve said about marriage; – it’s not a reward for purity, God is our only exceeding great reward! 🙂

      There’s so many reasons why singles struggle with purity, am thankful that God’s given depth and wisdom on a particular area of challenge.

      The “anatomy of sexual impurity in courtship” post is a sort-of common-sense guide on how impurity starts, how it progresses and how singles can nip it in the bud, as far as physical ignite-points go.
      Thanks for adding to the discussion..not .2 cents at all 🙂

    2. Lawrence Namale says:

      Definitely these are not two cents Amy! I love it when people share their personal stories with lessons for us to learn. Lust is another angle to impurity and its ‘game’ may or may not be delivered through the progression.

      One thing you raised though is the idea of waiting on God for a mate…it’s a whole new big topic that needs to be handled in another forum…maybe someone should write a post titled, “When God has not given me a marriage partner”…that would be an interesting read.
      Thanks for sharing.

  2. This a great article Lawrence. I love it!
    One question on relationships and courting, what happens when the couple falls into sexual sin before they get to the wedding? Should the church now refuse to marry them? If the church refuses to marry them, should they now separate? They therefore do not go through counselling and in more cases than one will probably live together and because the church wont marry them, continue on in sin. I have always wondered about this and I have found no answer.
    I would appreciate your thought and counsel on this.

    1. Esther,

      It’s great to have you on Intentional today. Thanks for your comments. About your question, you asked ‘if’ couples fall into sexual sin….that has happened and it keeps happening in church all over the world. I love what one hymn says about the Blood of Jesus…”that it goes as far as the curse is found”. This means that when it happens, the situation is unfortunate yes, but thoroughly redeemable! Courting couples who fall into sexual sin before marriage are not damagd goods! A church that would refuse to marry them later on probably has some pre-condistions including the following:
      -That the couple must acknowledge their sin (in this case, fornication)
      -That the couple should repent (1 John 1:8-10)
      -That the couple should commit to live a pure life after that (Jesus said, I do neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more)
      -That the couple should publicly acknowledge and renounce their sin. (Ok I know that there is serious debate on this part…it is a requirement that varies from church to church).
      If the affected couple would not adhere to the standards of retoration that the church has set, then some churches would not want to officiate their marriage. In essence churches are very keen not to condone the sin of fornication by marrying people off who are known to have fallen in that sin.

      That being said, there is a very important issue that must be stressed all the way from before courtship, in courtship and through marriage. That is the issue of accountability. As much as we do not repent to our church, we are accountable to the spiritual leaders in our church on how we live. They are ‘undershepherds’…which means that God has put them in leadership positions of Authority in our lives. We need to recognize their authority as they submit their own lives before God.

      On another extreme, some churches would of course refuse to marry such couples off hand. There is however no scriptural basis for this kind of behavior…and if a church does that, then they have missed the mandate that they have been given. In such cases, it is important to seek counsel and be directed to another Bible believing/teaching church that can help them through their restoration and all the way to a better life. We need to understand that it is not the church that forgives, neither do we repent to the church. Even before the church knows, it is important that the couple (as individuals) talk to God as in the scripture above.

      If a couple finds themselve in this situation, they need to understand the following:
      1. That what they did was sinful
      2. That there are consequences to their action
      3. That their sin could potentially mess up their relationship unless they seek a respite
      4. That they are not damaged goods, and that they are redeemable
      5. That there is a process of restoration that they must commit themselves to.
      6. That God Almighty loves them so much and would not treat them as their sins deserve
      7. That forgiveness of their sin is totally dependent on them seeking it out from God.

      Finally, let me emphasize this point that those who slip and fall are not damaged goods. I happen to know one such a couple who fell into sexual sin before marriage. They went through the restoration process in their church after acknowledging their sin. The process was not easy (we should not expect it to be rosy anyway). In fact, their church is such that expected of them to stand before the congregation on Sunday and tell them about their sin and their commitment to purity from them henceforth. That was such a tough test but as they went through it, they realized how liberating it was for them. What happened is that the man (now writing this article and replying to comments) ended up being a minister at the Church’s radio station every weekday at 5:00 am. He was blessed and the people were blessed too, till the time he moved on to another assignment.

      Esther, sorry that this has been a very long reply, but I sincerely hope this answers your question.

      1. Esther, thank you so much for coming by and joining the discussion. I love the answers and wisdom, gleaned from real life experience, from Lawrence and I am sitting on the pews with you and nodding an “Amen”. 🙂 Thanks Lawrence, I appreciate you.

  3. Lawrence, I think we need more African missionaries coming to the U.S. rather than (or at least in addition to) U.S. missionaries going to Africa. 🙂 I appreciate your standards – I would probably tie it more to a heart issue – that it becomes sin as soon as lust enters in. But I see where you’re coming from. If it’s a situation that sets you up for lust and further temptation or for the progression into it – why chance it?

    I’m afraid our Christian culture has gotten very careless with what goes on before marriage. I know a lot of kids who have made a no kissing before marriage standard and it’s alway fun to see them kiss at the wedding ceremony. Thanks for taking the time to write. I’ll share it with my own college kids!

    1. Wow, Barb thanks so much for your awesome comments…and great to know that you are a person in authority over some college kids! It would be great to hear the feedback they give you when you share with them.

      About African Missionaries to the US, you have Ngina Otiende and her husband already (haha)! Am sure they are doing a wonderful job there as is evident on this website!

      Blessings Barb!

      1. I’ll try to remember to let you know what they say, Lawrence. They’ll be home for Thanksgiving so I’ll ask them what they think. Yes, I think we’re lucky to have Ngina and her husband here. 🙂 I love Ngina’s voice of wisdom and reason!

  4. I’d like to say something on this post… I would consider myself to be one who has waited, I’m not sure how many younger single people are subscribed to your blog, but I don’t completely agree with this post…
    2 Books that I respect for christian single on dating include :
    Boy meets girl by Joshua Harris
    Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot
    These 2 books are pretty similar in their explanation of engagement/ courtship process. Both couples set up their boundaries according to their convictions and according to their past and what they learned from Gods word … I think that as a couple you need to establish what is acceptable and what will lead you into sin… the same goes with drinking and eating – if it causes your brother to sin do not do it… while I appreciate this post, I really do not see holding hands to be a sin, as a couple your responsible for your purity individually, if laying in a hammock together with your girlfriend or boyfriend causes your thoughts to wander into sin- then don’t do it. If holding hands causes your thoughts to wander into sin- then don’t do it … but, if you can control your thoughts and your feelings are pure towards your boyfriend or girlfriend. I don’t see anything wrong with holding hands or kissing for that matter. You just have to have open lines of communication, if something your bf/gf is doing is causing you to sin, then you have to communicate that out and stop it.

    1. AC, thanks so much for your sentiments…as well as the references you provided.

      First, the article handles the progression into impurity more than it is against couples showing affection to one another. There is a starting point and the two things that you do not think are wrong could be the starting points to that progression.

      Second, the article does not single out one way of showing affection as sin. However, the article shows that impurity in courtship is normally a gradual process that can be traced back to a particular starting point.

      Third, I totally agree with you as concerns couples agreeing on what their boundaries would be. That is what nips the progression in the bud…and helps to ‘steady the ship’ anytime those standards are crossed.

      Lastly, about kissing and holding hands…I personally do not think that they are flat…I think they are sweet and if allowed to blossom, they may lead a couple down the road of impurity. The couples who are less amorous obviously tend to stay pure as compared to those who are. Let this conversation continue.

      1. Thank you for clarifying your post…
        I believe that as Christians we can set up too many rules that hurt someone who is truly living for God, and these rules bring condemnation that God never intended for His people.  The Holy Spirit is what convicts the sin
        John 16:7-11 NASB
        But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.  And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment;  concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me;  and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me;  and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.

        I can see that setting rules/ boundaries( as stated in your post) in a relationship is wise. When establish through Gods word and a mutual understanding between the couple that they both want to live out the relationship to bring God glory.
        I think what is very harmful as a church is to set these “rules/boundaries” on a couple.  If you are suggesting these that’s fine, but from my own personal experience we have to be convicted by the Holy Spirit, and a church member or mentor can suggest to follow these “rules/boundaries” but to judge a persons purity based on the outward show of holding hands- I believe is very harmful and borders legalism. As a body we can encourage one another with our past mistakes and advise them in ways to stay pure, but unless your a parent setting rules/ boundaries for your house/child… as a mentor/ church member the role is to pray for and encourage singles to walk in purity-not set rules… I guess thats what I disagreed with in this post, it seemed as though you were wanting to impose rules/boundaries on people according to your standard… which is a good guide for purity, but should never be a set rule for a couple to “abide by ” no set of rules equal purity, what equals purity is a real fear of the Lord, it’s a daily conscious effort to die to the flesh and live for righteousness, this is only accomplished through humility, admitting that you can’t be holy and pure on your own, but you ask God to help you and teach you.. The Greatest thing a Mentor/ church member can do is pray and encourage , they can advise whats best, but in the end setting rules will just lead to failure – Christ has to convict the heart and the individual has to set the standard for themselves.
        Thank you for your perspective, I do believe it’s wise what you have mentioned – but in my own opinion, that’s where it needs to be left. After that all you can do is pray and ask God to do the rest.

        1. AC, I agree with you about “rules”, you can’t “force” people to do or live a certain way – you set guidelines, exhort, encourage, teach, show by example but at the end of the day, people have to make up their minds. I think about the gift of salvation, it’s not forced on us, we have to choose God.

          And that’s the heart of this post, i believe. To show how impurity starts, progresses, and it’s ‘cure’. The rest is up to each individual to choose.

          Something else, I don’t feel it’s legalism to share specifics when it comes to purity e.g telling singles that kissing-will-lead-to-this-so-don’t-start-it. To my experience NOT being specific, being too permissive is what gets people in to trouble. When you make the vision plain, it becomes easier to run with it.

          Now again, purity is a matter of the heart too so nobody is being judged, (hopefully) based on their outward appearances only. you can be ‘pure’ physically but not so in private (your mind and heart)

          Amen to prayer and asking God to have His way in our lives 🙂 Thanks AC

        2. AC, thanks once again. I agree with what Ngina says about rules. Let me reiterate once again: This post is about the progression into impurity. It starts somewhere (and that somewhere might be as innocent as holding hands and kissing). That where it starts is a sin is not what the post states. It just says that we need to be watchful.
          About the church setting boundaries…I think it is also scriptural: Paul the apostle at some point made distinction between his instructions and the Lord’s instruction. The wisdom in it is that the church knows the danger and is only trying to warn the people. Honestly, it would be irresponsibile of the church not to give some specific directions to the people on matters relating to purity. There are very very very many people who just do not know what to do. The rules are not imposed in that if you do not follow you are not part of the church. The rules are made available to warn people and basically explain the message of ‘freedom within boundaries’.

          But then again, I get exactly what you mean. It is possible for the church to be in error of going into extremes. Forbidding holding of hands for example is extreme. Explaining that it’s not wise is balance. Forbidding kissing before marrriage might not be extreme…the juicier the feeling the graver the danger. At the heart of it all, the church seeks to protect the people and not stifle them…freedom within boundaries concept.
          Thanks for sharing once again.

          1. Since your post and our discussion,  I’ve been praying over the subject,  I respect the post, no doubt. It really struck a cord with me and I’ve been praying about it, finally last night I realized that the frustration is not so much with your post, as it is with the idea of a man who would be willing to live by this standard. I personally have grown up in the church, my sister went to a private Christian college and I have NEVER seen a Christian couple not hold hands. It comes from frustration,  I have not encountered a man who doesn’t struggle with porn( keep in mind, I only date or consider dating Christian men)… I’d be happy to find a Christian man who is free of porn, so the idea of finding one who dosnt want to hold hands for the sake of purity is bordering ludicrous to me, because I have truly never seen this with any Christian couple( not holding hands) … It does sounds ridiculous to set this standard,  whenever you can’t even find a Christian guy free from porn, I’m not sure if you have been single in recent years, but this is truly an epidemic. I guess my frustration stems from this, we do not need more rules on how to be pure, what we need is a heart change,  we need mens hearts pure, my heart craves to find men with pure hearts… Pornography has saturated our men, the year before last at a Christian youth camp ( these are church kids ) almost all admitted to struggling with porn, I think the few that didn’t were just scared to say that they were.
            What I believe we as Christians need to focus in on,  is the issues of the heart and purifying the mind. I guess truly my frustration is with leadership as a whole, trying to make rules, while sin runs rampant in the heart and behind close doors in front of the computer. It makes me sick, that as believers we have set so much on rule setting and outward appearance that the heart is being overlooked. Young men are going to church “living for God” looking good according to church rules- while on the inside struggling with porn. Where is holiness in that?
            My choice has been to step away from rule setting and step into prayer for the men of this generation because from what I have seen a flood of impurity has hit, the only way to fight this war is prayer. That men would be convicted of secret sin and live in purity.

            1. Wow!
              AC, thanks so much for the discussion. I am so glad you are sharing from your heart about the subject of purity…and especially purity in men.

              You tend to suggest that rules should be done away with and that we should focus on change of heart. Correct me if I have misquoted you.

              You are infact right in saying so. However, implementing what you just suggested will be next to impossible without people honoring some rules, commandments, regulations, codes, standards or whatever.

              In other words, after we have prayed and been convicted, we need to take action. That is what the article suggests…and I pretty much wanted to show the genesis of the progression of impurity all the way to its full maturity.

              About men (christian men) and porn…it is a real struggle and will need another forum to discuss it.

              Thanks again for your sharing AC, it is greatly appreciated.

    2. AC, thank you for commenting, I have many single readers, both young and old. I think Lawrence has shared just about the same things i wanted to say. I’d just want to reiterate that last point he made..I believe that physical activity before marriage is not ‘innocent’; and by that i mean any kissing, cuddling, petting, will elicit feelings and emotions and thoughts. (That’s why it’s enjoyable right? )

      As you’ve noted, some couples might succeed in “controlling” themselves from going ‘all the way’ but purity is not a matter of testing “how far can i go and still remain pure?”. Purity is not a physical thing only, it’s a heart thing, and a mind thing.

      As a single lady and as a mentor and leader of many other singles too, I used to say that if you want NOT to blown of the roof by strong gust of wind, learn to stay off the ledge 🙂 Simple principle but not so easy to apply. and esp more so in our cultures today.
      God bless you AC as you seek to honor God in your relationship.

  5. I appreciate the perspective and it helps me with my girls. This is the voice of God and reason… Thanks.

    1. You pretty much welcome Floyd. Thanks for your comments, much appreciated…and God bless your girls.

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