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What Do the Apostle Paul and Ed Sheeran Have in Common?

It’s unlikely Paul had red hair, nor do I think he was particularly musical. I’m pretty sure Ed Sheeran couldn’t make a tent, and probably hasn’t ever been shipwrecked. So, what’s the link?

They both know the power of habit.

Take, for instance, Ed Sheeran’s new single – Bad Habits (watch below). His bad habit of choice isn’t nail biting or doom-scrolling but an inability to say no – to one-night stands, to alcohol, to strangers’ invitations to parties. His bad habits lead to ‘late nights, endin’ alone / conversations with a stranger I barely know / swearing this will be the last but it probably won’t’.

It’s song-writing gold: relatable, catchy, and insightful. We all have those things that we can’t say no to. We all have those moments where we swear ‘this’ll be the last time’ or ‘ooh, last one’ (I’m thinking of Pringles here, obviously), and then find ourselves right back where we started a few days, hours, minutes later.

It’s almost as if Ed has been eavesdropping on the apostle Paul: ‘I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do but what I hate I do’ (Romans 7:15–16). Or perhaps it’s less about Ed Sheeran’s understanding of the Bible and more about his insight on human nature: habits form us, for good or ill.

Habits have power. Ed seems resigned to this: ‘I was lookin’ for a way out, now I can’t escape’. But Paul offers us a different answer: ‘who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!’

Ed sings about how his ‘bad habits lead to you’, the ‘you’ clearly being someone that he knows is bad for him, but he can’t stay away from. Paul writes about how our bad habits can lead us to throw ourselves on the mercy of Christ.

People often think that they are not good enough for God – that God would reject them and their sinful, shame-filled, broken selves. But as those who have been saved by grace, we know different, and thus we have good news to share: bad habits, although sinful, are never the end of the story. There is grace for all who would turn towards it. And for Christians? Well, our bad habits remind us daily of our need for God.

Our bad habits, perhaps, lead to him.

Alianore Smith 
Alianore (formerly Nell Goddard) is the Church Partnerships Manager at International Justice Mission UK. She tweets as @alianoree

Watch the music video for Bad Habits:


  1. Excellent message Alianore. Thank you.

    By Paul Valler  -  20 Aug 2021
  2. ‘bad habits, although sinful are never the end of the story. There is grace for all who would turn towards it.’

    Great lyric Alianore!! Love this Connecting with Culture – it really connected with me today! Made me think of David in the Old Testment – the Ed Sheeran of his day. He obviously had bad habits but he kept turning to grace!

    ‘Amazing Grace how sweet the sound’ – another great lyric from a man with bad habits!

    By Steve Rouse  -  20 Aug 2021
  3. Thanks. Good article.

    By Philip Hamilton, Belfast  -  27 Aug 2021
  4. Brilliant outline of the truth of human failings and need for God in a meaningful and modern way that can be easily related to; thank you. Please can I ask is it permissible to use the Ed Sheeran video in church services or youth work without going to his agent?

    By Andrew Dukes  -  27 Aug 2021
    • Hi Andrew – encouraging thoughts. Thanks. Unsure on your copyright question – we have permission for our courses under limited copyright licence to share … and linking online to something else online is fine, provided you’re not housing this directly on your server. I suspect there is a broad exemption for simply playing a freely available video clip in a youth group gathering (there was in my former context in Australia – unsure here). Either way, check with the copyright authorities, and hopefully you can use this reflection and clip to explore such a key aspect of what it means to be human.

      By LICC Editor  -  28 Aug 2021

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