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Beyond Awkward Side Hugs Review

Out of the many gifts in our lives that God has given us to steward, sexuality has always been one of the most difficult. The danger, of course, lies in believing that each of us is alone in figuring out answers to complex questions to relationships, singleness, sexual desire, digital relationships and more. Bronwyn Lea, author of ‘Beyond Awkward Side Hugs: Living as Christian Brothers and sisters in a sex-crazed world’ dives into the nuances of how inevitable male-female church membership and ministry contexts can be guided with biblical wisdom.

From popular teacher and writer Bronwyn Lea, a biblical invitation to healthy male-female relationships by creating a vision beyond stilted and unhelpful don’t-touch/don’t-talk rules.

When it comes to relationships between men and women in the church, we’ve got more questions than answers. How can men and women be in community when not married? Or if married, with people not our spouses? Can men and women be “just friends”? How can we date wisely and well? What does it mean to be a woman if you’re not a wife? Or a man if you’re not a husband? How can we be in healthy, close relationships if we’re single?

In Beyond Awkward Side Hugs, Bronwyn Lea lays out a biblical vision for relationships between men and women in the church. Jesus’ pattern for church living was one of family, of brothers and sisters living in intimate, healthy community with each other. Doing so calls for character and wisdom, for charting a path toward relationships that acknowledge gender but aren’t sexualized, that go beyond the awkwardness of simplistic don’t-touch/don’t-talk rules.

Rooted in Scripture and attested by personal and pastoral stories, Beyond Awkward Side Hugs is an invitation to relationship theology that moves beyond unhealthy, eroticized, fear-based patterns and toward gendered, generous relationships between men and women of character, loving one another as Jesus did.

Lea has worked a significant portion of her adult life – 20 years – for church and has a number of experiences and conversations she uses to reflect upon in the book. In fact, she states that the issue of sexuality in relationships is ‘an unavoidably central part of how we live out the Gospel.’ She later links this to the important, broader concept of stewardship: sexuality, she explains, should be handled as a gift. Christians should be careful – as with all gifts – to avoid misuse and abuse.

Does careful stewardship then, call for a myriad of complex rules dictating who, what, when, where and how? For example, there has probably never been a Christian dating discussion in history that has not included the ‘how far can we go physically?’ question. Human nature tends to look for rules to guide choices but Lea points out that rules alone will never be enough to keep us from temptation. The answer to some questions about boundaries is much better answered with ‘it depends.’ With nuanced maturity, Lea explains that discernment, prudence and wisdom are far more important than simple rules. She quotes more than once in the book from Colossians 2:20-23: “Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.”

‘Beyond Awkward Side Hugs’ is not a book for someone looking for hard and fast extra-biblical rules about dating. Rather, read this book if you are looking to deepen a grace-orientated discussion on gender relationships in a church where we are the family of Christ.

Get your copy of Beyond Awkward Side Hugs from CUM Books, here

About the Author: Bronwyn Lea has been active for twenty years in vocational ministry to serve, encourage, teach, and mobilize Christians of all ages. A graduate of law school and seminary, she ministers in her local church and also heads up Propel Sophia, the Christian living wisdom resource for Propel Women. Bronwyn is mom to three school-aged kids, who keep her somewhere between hilarious laughter and desperate prayer on any given day. She and her fellow South African husband live in Northern California, where they count the men and women in their church as both friends and family. Learn more at

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