Weddings, concerts, proms, and many other social gathers in which young adults gather often include dancing. When people hear music, they feel the need to move and bounce with the rhythm, a natural expression of joy and merriment. However, dancing can become licentious and explicit. Popular choreography often induces impure thoughts and puts the dancers into sexual positions. With so many opportunities and encouragements to dance, and the popularity dance enjoys in the modern culture, should the Christian indulge in this social ritual?
Young adults and teenagers hear sermons and lessons on the evils of dancing, while reading countless pamphlets and booklets on the sinfulness of dances. The most common explanation for labeling dancing as sinful rests in the idea that dancing is sexual in nature. Christians receive the message that one cannot dance without putting dirty thoughts in their heads, and good Christians keep themselves pure by not dancing. It is often explained that dancing makes it impossible to keep a pure mind because the act will inevitably lead to lust. Without doubt, many forms of dancing can lead to lustful thoughts. However, the real question that should be considered is, “Can you dance and not lust?” “Does all types of dancing force one to lust?”
The Bible records several examples of dancing. Following the deliverance from Egypt, the women of Israel dance while following Miriam, the sister of Moses (Ex. 15:20). Though in this example, the women are not dancing with men and the Bible does not describe how they are dancing except in a joyful manner. Jephthah’s daughter is seen dancing with timbrels in celebration of her father’s return (Judges 11:34). Again, she dances alone, and it is a joyful dance not a sexual dance. The Bible provides examples of sinful dancing such as those dance movements designed to create lust in the dancer or the onlooker. Moses fumes in anger when he sees the dancing and the golden calf on his return from Mt. Sinai; they were dancing naked like heathens (Ex. 32:19, 25). In the New Testament, the licentious movements of the daughter of Herodias before Herod creates lustful thoughts in men (Mat. 14:6; Mark 6:24). The Bible documents a great variety of dancing both sexual and non-sexual. However, if dancing in of itself (no matter what kind) was licentious, then God’s people would not have been allowed to do it.
Not all dances in the recent centuries incite lustful behavior if performed properly. The Victorian Waltz (the two dancers don’t have any contact with each other except in touching their hands), the Virginia Reel, and certain types of square dancing do not require the dancers to put themselves in sexual positions or move themselves in seductive manners. The only way they could be considered sexual would be in the fact that the dancing is usually done by a man and a woman; it would be uncommon to see two men or two women engaging in these dances.
Paul explains in Ephesians 5:4 that the Christian cannot engage in improper “jesting” which would include any provocative or offensive gesturing (i.e., licentious dancing). Gyrating and thrusting the hips in a sexual manner is not proper for a Christian. Dressing sexually and immodestly that can provoke lustful thoughts while dancing is improper jesting (Gal. 5:19-21). Peter expresses to new Christians in his epistle that those who use the flesh to create a desire in someone else to want them, Peter called it “wantonness,” then they are living in error (2 Peter 2:18). Before one dances, first ask: Does the dance incite me to unlawful thoughts? Does it provoke sinful thoughts in my partner? Am I trying to encourage others to ‘want’ me in a lustful manner? Will dancing hurt my standing with God and in the church? Would Christ be ashamed of me if He saw me in this activity? Christians should never lower themselves to the level of the world to have fun (1 John 2:16). The Hebrew writer tells Christians what God expects of them, “Beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation… (Heb. 6:9).” If what the Christian does in example does not reflect Christian principles and values, then it must be avoided!
If one takes the position that dancing is sinful because it has the potential to lead to lustful thoughts, then one must be consistent in his/her faith and ban all actions between couples that could lead to lustful thoughts. Would a Bible teacher condemn hand holding? Kissing? Would parents forbid hugs or putting one’s arm around someone on the couch? There are many actions that young couples do that could lead to lustful thoughts, but at some point, one must trust the individuals and expect them to discipline their minds. If a man or woman cannot dance without having impure thoughts, then he/she should abstain, but if the individual can dance or kiss or cuddle without impure thoughts then they are not sinning.