Friday, September 29, 2017

Closer Than a Sister: Review and Giveaway

Closer Than a Sister: How Union with Christ Helps Friendships to Flourish by Christina Fox, Christian Focus, 2017, 191 pages. Release date: October 6, 2017.

The desire for real friendships is part of what it means to be human, made in the image of God, and something with which many of us struggle. I know I long for rich friendships, yet often I find the idea of having the closeness others enjoy elusive and disconnected from my own experience.

In Closer Than a Sister, Christina Fox tackles the topic of friendships for women in the church by emphasizing the local church (the body of Christ), union with Christ, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Divided into three sections, the book lays out theological, expository, and redemptive perspectives on Christian friendship.

In the first section, the author discusses the theological foundations for Christian friendship, the origins of Christian community, and how unity with Christ creates essential unity between believers. Specifically, for Christian women, our bonds go beyond mere secular notions of friendship, because we have been given a bond and unity in Christ intended to make us a heavenly family. On the one hand, we have been made to enjoy community with one another, but on the other hand, because of sin, community is still broken and still often falls short of meeting that desire or honoring the Lord.

As a competent guide and expositor of the relevant New Testament passages, the author then takes her readers on a journey in the second section through various scriptural examples and instructions that depict Christ-exalting Christian friendships between sisters in the Lord.  Fox presents the text from a first person perspective as trained counselor and seasoned blogger on women's topics, speaking and engaging with the reader using a very personal approach. For some readers, this approach may seem intimidating; however, from my point of view, the approach was a welcome change from the sanitized, non-personal academic writing that I encounter regularly in my graduate research program.

Finally, in the third section, the author approaches some of the downfalls that Christian women often experience, including the loss of friendships that result from moving, changes of the season of life, or even conflict. Struggles with idolatry, unrealistic expectations, and gossip regularly seem to exacerbate our loneliness and longing for community. While not every woman in our local churches will become close friends, the author shows us how we can reach out to our sisters in Christ, in a spirit of love and sacrificial service. Ultimately, if we are in Christ, we're called to remember that he is our true Friend -- the One who will never leave us or forsake us and who will never let us down or reject us.

I would recommend this book for several purposes: (1) if like me, friendship is a struggle for you, this book will likely be a worthwhile read and (2) for anyone interested in cultivating a mentoring, Titus-2 type relationship, I would see this book as an invaluable resource for understanding the kind of relationships we might emulate. If you're already gifted in this area, the book is still a very good reminder of what Gospel friendships look like and of the One Friend Who we all are longing to meet face to face in that day.

The giveaway has ended - Thank you everyone who entered!

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