Swipe Up: A Review

Robin Barfield
Reviews 3 mins

Jason Roach, Swipe Up: A Better Way to Do Love, Sex and Relationships (The Good Book Company, 2019)

Progressive sexual ethics are liberating, loving and joyful; traditional Christian views of sex and marriage are restrictive, hateful and dour. If that is our starting point then to defend traditional views will require apologies and defensiveness. However, if we are convinced that God’s way is the best way for everyone then this should be celebrated and shown to be a delight. This is the ‘better story’ that Jason Roach seeks to tell in this short and compelling book. If Christians can grasp the beauty of God’s plan for intimacy, friendship, and love then it will lead to increased confidence to live well and speak lovingly and truthfully.

If Christians can grasp the beauty of God’s plan for intimacy, friendship, and love then it will lead to increased confidence to live well and speak lovingly and truthfully.

Jason Roach is a pastor and member of the General Synod of the Church of England, having previously worked as a doctor. Inspired by psychiatrist Glynn Harrison, he writes to invite us into his journey from relationship disasters, through singleness to marriage. In doing so he paints a picture of the joys of God’s ways in all their contexts with humour and clarity. Roach’s writing is winsome and often whimsical, sharing with honesty his mistakes as well as his joys. I particularly appreciated the down-to-earth frankness of the examples of teenage dating catastrophes. The book is peppered with Scripture without being preachy or expository, instead rooting all the author says in the grand sweep of the Bible's storyline.

Swipe Up is a mere 95 pages and is readable enough for an older teenager or young adult. The six chapters cover human longings, our purpose, singleness, marital faithfulness, deep friendship, and speaking into a world that has lost sight of such things. However, to reduce the chapters to single propositions like this is to empty them of their power. Instead, the portrait of the marriage of God to his people shines through brightly. The book's main analogy, ‘swiping up’ someone you like on a dating app, gives the message a contemporary positivity. One particularly striking example was of Ian and Larissa who married despite Ian suffering a severe brain injury during the engagement period (p.56). The beauty of sacrificial love shown is remarkable and challenging.

I will be giving it away to my youth group and young adults.

This book is aimed at Christians and is one I will be giving away to my youth group and young adults to help them think positively about Christian relationships and desires. I can see it being useful for encouraging those who may be in danger of being persuaded by the different messages they are hearing. It would be good to have a similar book to give to non-Christians too, although I can see that the best message is the joyful lives of Christians in all walks of life.

It is hard to fault this book, however, a few thoughts struck me as I read. First, I wonder whether there might have been more to say for those who are same-sex attracted. There is one chapter on singleness which, while vital, does not address the issue directly. The way singleness is portrayed begins to open the way to seeing it as a plausible option, yet the balance of the book somewhat undermines this vital and counter-cultural view. Second, it may be that some Christians would prefer that Roach was clearer on the negatives, the ‘noes’ of the Christian life, those behaviours that lie outside of traditional Christian orthodoxy. This would miss the point of what the author is seeking to do, in my view, and there are plenty of other resources that approach the topic in such a way. Third, as each chapter is thematic, Scripture references have the tendency to pop-up rather than being clearly rooted in a single text. Some may see this as a negative, but I think it serves to strengthen the case that this is the message of the whole Bible rather than just a few individual texts.

Roach has done an excellent job in positively displaying that Scripture is a love story of Christ for his bride and setting human purpose and relationships in light of that. He has done this in a way that could convince teenagers and young adults that God’s intention for them can be joyful and good if not always easy or straightforward. This is a very useful resource and one I highly recommend.