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She goes to school at Penn State. He’s a student at Ohio State. Rivalry aside, passion burns. The good kind that tells them “this is it.” 322.97 miles separate them, creating an invitation to consume copious amounts of gasoline between State College, PA and Columbus, OH. That’s expensive. So, they try to save money where they can. Hotel bills seem like a good place to cut costs. When they visit each other, they sleep over in one another’s apartments. Completely platonic, of course. They insist there’s no other solution and there’s never been any sex. Ever. That could never happen. They’re both Christians.

Is this OK?

Sleeping over has been called one of the newest trends in “Christians sketchiness.” I’ll go with that. I think it’s possible to sleep over at your boyfriend’s without eventually having sex, but not probable. Let me tell you why.

 1.) Sex is “controlled” by the autonomic nervous system (ANS). This system is controlled almost entirely by the environment, not your will. The same system controls things like salivating when the pizza delivery guy walks by and you catch a wiff of that freshly baked italian pie with pineapple and ham. Did you pause and say, “Gee, that smells great. I think I will choose to salivate now?” Nope! Me either. The ANS controls your heart beating when you find yourself in a fender bender. Do make a quick mental note to break out into an inconvenient cold sweat while your pulse races? No. The environment invites it. And suddenly without conscious effort.

Sex works the same way. The smell of your guy. The fact that you are alone. The fact that you’re both horizontal and cuddled under the covers. (Oh, don’t tell me that he sleeps on the couch. I didn’t just fall off of the turnip truck yesterday! I know that you might intend for it to be this way, but then cuddling on the couch turns into cuddling in bed and before you know it…”what harm can there be in sleeping together if we are actually just sleeping?”) These things invite the autonomic nervous system to fire up and get steamy. If you and your guy are sleeping together without having sex, either he’s not attracted to you or he’s gay. Your body…and his…were made to respond to lying next to one another. You might not mean to, but sleeping over may likely lead to “accidental” sex. I’ve talked to a lot of girls who have had this experience. And wish they hadn’t.

2.) Sex is best when you don’t plan it. Brain scans of women having sex show that certain parts in the pre-frontal cortext and deep limbic system kind of just shut off when she’s having an orgasm. (I don’t know who volunteers for that kind of research, but someone does.) If the autonomic nervous system kicks in while you’re both sleeping—and that really can happen, it can be really mind-blowing when you wake up in the middle of it. (By that I mean, that one partner wakes the other with the intent to have sex. The one who was previously sleeping will have great sex because their mind was relaxed.) When the mind is emptied and relaxed and completely shut off to begin with, sex is so much…well, sexier! But that’s just it. You might not plan to have sex. You may “slide” into it.

3.) “Sliding” into sex, sets you up to slide into other morally harmful decisions. Research professor Scott Stanley has actually trademarked the term “sliding vs deciding.” His research reveals that when we “slide” into moral behavior that we’re also likely to “slide” out of it. In other words, if sex “just happens” we aren’t really committed. And so we might not be committed in the future to that relationship. Unless we intentionally “decide” what moral behavior we will or will not embrace, we’re prone to any kind of behavior. Sleeping with your boyfriend and “accidentally” “sliding” into sex proves one thing: you’re capable of having sex with someone to whom you are not married. And it can happen again. That’s a super bad way to start a sexual relationship with someone to whom you hope to be faithful for life. May explain why the divorce rate among couples who’ve lived together is so much worse than those who intentionally decided to wait until marriage to co-habitat. One New York Times writer offers this thought: “Moving from dating to sleeping over to sleeping over a lot to cohabitation can be a gradual slope, one not marked by rings or ceremonies or sometimes even a conversation.” Sliding into sex leads to sliding into co-habitation leads into sliding into marriage. And sometimes, sliding out. You need to be decisive about your sexual intentions.

The idea of sliding reminds me of the concept of snares within the Bible. For example, Psalm 141:9 reads “Keep me from the trap that they have laid for me and from the snares of evildoers!” The writer was not only acknowledging that the world was full of snares, but that he himself could empower it. You see, a hunters snare is not like a steel-toothed metal trap. We avoid those things! We know they might hurt. A snare is a simple piece of wire that’s looped so that when you step into it, you’ll be trapped if you step forward. It’s the own forward movement of the animal that gently and slowly tightens the snare until it’s too late. Every move you make in a relationship has the potential to ensnare you if you’ve stepped into a trap. Be careful.

4.) It looks like you’re having sex, even if you’re not. Assuming you believe that a Christian is called to one mutually monogamous lifetime sexual relationship—I like to call that marriage—, you understand that God’s standard encourages us to wait until we’re married to have sex. (If you think you can start having sex once you are engaged or even if you’re sure you’ve found the one, read “Sex First, Then A Wedding.”) When you decide to sleep over at your boyfriend’s, it’s really hard for the rest of us to believe you’re not having sex. Too many of us have been there. Even myself. Once. Long ago. A decision I made that was with the best intentions, but I slid into sin. I Thessalonians 5:22 says that Christians are supposed to “avoid all appearances of evil.” When you sleep over, it looks like you’re sinning. It’s as simple as that.

One more thing, I love ya even if you do “slide” into this sin. I once was a slider myself. But today I’m a woman who has decided to follow Jesus. No cliche intended there. I just know that I’m capable of sin and choose to stay far away from the snares of this world. You have the same choice to make.

Slide or decide.

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