How Far is Too Far…for Turtles?


All of us tend to wonder, “How close can I get to sin and still be innocent?”


How Far is Too Far?

Man in sneakers standing at the yellow line with Do Not cross message

Many teens and young adults, wanting to maintain purity in their dating years, ask the question: “How far is too far?”

This is not only a teen and young adult question, nor is it specific strictly to dating. Every person is faced with the decision where to draw the line between sinful and safe.

  • How much physical affection can we enjoy without sinning sexually?
  • If drunkenness is a sin, how much can I drink without being technically drunk?
  • How vocal can I be with my judgmental opinions without being guilty of gossip?
  • How flirty can I be without being unfaithful to my spouse?
  • How openly angry can I get without “losing my temper?”
  • How low a priority can I make spiritual practices while still maintaining the façade of an active relationship with Jesus?

For some, the question is conscious, for others, unconscious, but all of us tend to wonder,“How close can I get to sin and still be innocent?”

Turtles at the Surface

TurtleAndShark_02About this, we may draw some valuable insight from sea turtles.

Scientists studying the ecosystem of Shark Bay, off the west coast of Australia, were puzzled to observe that five times as many Loggerhead sea turtles are killed by tiger sharks than their cousins, the Green sea turtles. Seeing no obvious reasons, they studied further and discovered it has to do with their breathing habits.

Greens spend relatively little time at the surface, pushing their faces out of the water long enough for only a single breath before retreating once again toward the sea floor, while Loggerheads routinely spend two or three minutes at a time at the surface with their faces above water.

Tiger sharks rely on the element of surprise, stalking and attacking almost exclusively from below their prey, making the Loggerheads lingering at the surface more vulnerable to the stealthy predator.

For sea turtles, even an instant at the surface exposes them to mortal danger, but every second longer only multiplies the risk exponentially.

Thus, it would be foolish for a turtle to ask, “How long is too long at the surface?”

The more discerning turtle—and incidentally, the one that will likely live longest—asks instead, “How can I stay close to the bottom for as long as possible?”

A New Direction

It is no less foolish for us to inch dangerously close to the line of sin, hoping to stop just short of trespassing.

In fact, “How far is too far?” is not even a biblical question! Rather than speak of righteousness as a line or a position, scripture instead speaks of it as a direction

“Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God, and He will come near to you” (James 4:7-8).

The wise disciple moves constantly away from areas where he or she is vulnerable and exposed to Satan’s attacks and constantly deeper into intimacy with God.

Righteousness is not a position, but a direction. Thus, the question we should be asking is not, “Is this action across the line?” but rather, “Does this action take me closer to the predator or closer to God?”

If we’re looking for the line we shouldn’t cross, perhaps we’re looking the wrong direction. Why not make it our goal to see just how far we can go in our intimacy with God instead?

Let’s Hear from You

I’d love to hear your wisdom on this.

Reply and tell me: If you had a child or a friend who sought your advice about how far was too far in a certain area, how would you respond?

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