By Catherine Beaumont

Love at Work

What is it that makes a social action project distinctively Christian? Is it that our work comes from, and is shaped by, our faith?

We are told that faith without works is dead (James 2:26), but many Christians feel called to work out their faith in secular institutions. Likewise, the works we do as an expression of our faith are also done, and sometimes done better, by groups who have no faith connection. In order to identify that added something that makes an organisation specifically Christian we might turn James’ statement around and ask, If faith without works is dead, what are works without faith?

That question is answered by Paul’s great hymn of love in 1 Corinthians 13. We can demonstrate efficiency and success in our work, we can follow the rules and keep up with changing trends in diversity and inclusion, but without love our works are empty. We might add proclamation, prayer, and prophecy to our good deeds but still, without love they are nothing.

Our faith is in God who not only requires love but actually is Love (1 John 4:8), yet just as different Christian traditions might work out their faith in very different ways, so what looks like love to one person might feel like imposition or coercion to another. In case we are in any doubt about the nature of Christian love Paul provides a detailed description in verses 4-7.

This could be used as a checklist alongside our regular monitoring and evaluation, and might include the following questions:

  • Does our organisation ever work in a way that is impatient or unkind?
  • Do the needs of our organisation take priority over the needs of individuals?
  • Do we boast of our results and impact?
  • Do we engage in conflict?
  • Do we catalogue the failings of those we feel should be doing more?
  • Do we give up on people who don’t respond to our efforts?

Love is greater than hope and faith (v13), it is also greater than funding, governance, marketing, efficiency, or size, and what’s more, love guarantees success (v8).