Red Herrings and church life

I’ve written two articles describing examples of what are in my opinion “red-herrings” when it comes to the UK’s COVID-19 response. I could be wrong in my assessment. I write as an amateur arm chair critic not an expert.

However, the point I wanted to make was that often we risk being distracted by something that seems big, controversial and important but is in fact a red herring, it distracts us from the crucial things that we need to address.

Theologically we get thrown red herrings. There is a constant obsession with the Jewishness or otherwise of Paul.  You see that from both extremes as I’ve mentioned in recent articles. There are those who see Paul as offering a pagan adaption and alternative to the Jewish roots of Christianity and there are those who have argued that Paul’s Gospel was rooted in Jewish heritage (The New Perspective). However, the argument is a bit of a red herring because it does not change the content of Paul’s Gospel or his unity with the other Gospels. Yes Paul was Jewish but not hat does not mean that justification by faith wasn’t central to his argument.

Paul in 1 Timothy 1 warns about those who seek to side-track us with the red herring of theological interest. They get obsessed with myths and speculation; they think they are great teachers of God’s law but they miss the point. God’s word is not there to fuel speculation but to equip us for Christ centred, grace drenched godly living.

We also come across red herrings in pastoral care, discipleship and discipline.  A classic example of this is the “but I’ve prayed about it” defence. This of course implies that the person seeking to challenge and correct hasn’t prayed about it.  We get distracted by the appearance of spirituality and by our fear of being seen as harsh when we want to be seen as merciful. Yet, what I’ve learnt is that God’s Word, even when it sounds hard to us, even when it sounds at first like law is always more gracious, graceful compassionate and merciful than human attempts at mercy.

We should not allow ourselves to be distracted from the business of the Gospel, making disciples and seeing them grow in Christ.

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