The front cover of this book is clickbait in print form! Both the title and the subtitle (‘avoidance is not purity’) are blunt statements that strike at the heart of a key issue for many faithful Christians; that of how men and women relate to one another. What’s inside, however, is a thoughtful and well-argued study of Christian identity and relationships.

Using the idea of ‘sacred siblingship’ as her central tentpole, the book is split into two parts – the first covers where we’re going wrong, and the second how we can do it right. The first part is a comprehensive look at the different sins we fall into that can lead us to treat each other unbiblically, and the second part is an encouraging study of what the Christian community should look like. Much of what she says can be equally applied to all our relationships within the church, whether of the same or opposite sexes, and it was indeed in this that I found her most compelling. She also has much to say on Jesus’ identity as our ‘Elder Brother’, an idea which reveals as much about our relationship with God as it does with each other.

Overall, this book is well-written and uplifting to read. Byrd does have a couple of sources with whom she interacts heavily, but they do not feel too intrusive. If anything, the trickiest aspect for me was the repeated emphasison Billy Crystal’s infamous quote from ‘When Harry Met Sally’ - some variation of pop-culture references might have been nice! However, the reasons for focusing on this line are obvious enough to explain it.

If your church is blessed enough not to need a book about godly friendships between men and women, I would recommend you read this anyway, as it’s a great book about faith and community. And if you, or your church, do need help with the issues and attitudes tackled here, this is an excellent place to start.

Miriam Montgomery, Free Church Books