I’m not the author’s intended audience for this book.
This is a book for Christian teenage girls, seeking to know more about love, relationships, sex, and marriage. This is not me. However, as a youth leader, and parent of a daughter who will be a teenager in coming years, this book piques my interest.
Choosing Love in a Broken World is not a long read; at 127 pages long, it’s quite easy to get through in one sitting. Each of the chapters is short, with discussion questions and opportunities to dig deeper into the scriptures off the back of the content. Johnston also writes in a warm and inviting tone, which enables engagement in these large topics in a winsome way.
From the outset, Johnston puts these themes of love, relationships, marriage and sex into perspective by reminding us that we are all created in God’s image: made for relationship
From the outset, Johnston puts these themes of love, relationships, marriage and sex into perspective by reminding us that we are all created in God’s image: made for relationship, and therefore are to express our love and desire for one-another in the way God intends. The foundation of the imago dei, and the defining of love as that which comes from God, and shown through his Son Jesus, is an important truth to be understood for teenagers and adults alike.
As the book moves on to speak more deeply about the theme of relationships, marriage, and sex it becomes more practical for the reader. Johnston upholds traditional Christian ethics surrounding sex and marriage, and expresses these in a winsome tone. Christian writers (particularly men) sometimes write about these things in terms that are overly blunt. I found Johnston’s gentle approach much more appropriate.
Nevertheless, Johnston is pushing back on the cultural tsunami that is surging around every teenage boy and girl. An example of this is in the chapter ‘What is love?’ where Johnston writes against the prevailing winds of culture in love just being a feeling:
Real love is not just a response in your heart or in your stomach; it is also a decision in your mind that is bigger than what you feel at a particular moment in time. (p36)
Another aspect of the book that I found helpful was the constant reminder and connection to the gospel. Johnston helps us to see the connection between human love and God’s love for us in Christ. She explains how marriage relates to God’s covenant with us through Christ. In the chapter on forgiveness she reminds us that our forgiveness of others is enabled through God’s forgiveness of us through Christ. The overall effect is to demonstrate that Christ really is central to—not just our faith, but to every important aspect of our lives. The gospel isn’t just a part of our lives but it impacts all aspects of it.
Christ really is central … The gospel isn’t just a part of our lives but it impacts all aspects of it.
A small gripe might be that the book could use a few more illustrations and less predictable applications (books for girls and women always risk falling into stereotypes). Why is the theme of gossip always the first one used in a list of ways girls could improve? I mean, I get it. But more thinking might help portray a non-typical answer in these areas.
Yet, this book would be worth working through with a teenage daughter, or with a group of teenage girls in a small group. It would make a good gift for teens venturing into high school. It provides foundational guidance on relationships, sex, marriage and love, and also provides broad practical advice about dating and choosing a partner.
My appreciation for the wisdom in Choosing Love, has increased on reflection. I will be recommending it to parents of teenage girls; for my wife to work through with our daughter; and to our youth ministry here at church. I’m sure it will provide a good starting point for discussion on these themes and enable a framework for families in these areas.