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Making Faith Relevant by Supporting a Living Wage

When Christians talk to others about Jesus, it is more likely to turn them off than attract them.

This conclusion, highlighted by The Guardian, was one finding in “Talking Jesus,” a Church of England report published last week.

So how can Christians share their faith in ways that are relevant and do not make people squirm with embarrassment?

I believe a key way is through a commitment to social justice.

Coincidentally, the week of the report’s release was “Living Wage Week.”

The goal is to educate folks on a minimum amount of hourly pay – £8.25 in the U.K. ($12.57); £9.40 in London ($14.32) – that employers are encouraged to voluntarily commit to and become an accredited living wage employer. My workplace, the West London Mission, became accredited last year.

This weeklong initiative was started by Citizens UK, a brilliant, inclusive movement made up of many community groups who campaign together to bring about social change. A huge number of churches are involved – so faith is right at the heart of this movement.

If you work for a company or organization, could you suggest to the senior management that your company commit to becoming a living wage employer?

Whatever your position, everyone could become advocates for this – both within their workplaces and within the churches or community groups you are part of who also employ people.

The living wage is a simple idea, which is helping create a fairer and more just society.

In practice, this often means that those who are paid the least in organizations, often cleaners and domestic staff, get a pay rise.

More than 10,000 families have been lifted out of poverty in London alone as a result of companies and organizations providing a living wage. It has proved to be good for business, good for families and good for society.

The “Talking Jesus” report shows that followers of Jesus need to be creative and confident about how they show their faith to others.

But fundamental to this is an understanding of the relationship between the explicit expressions of faith where we talk overtly about God and Jesus, and the implicit expressions where our beliefs are channeled in actions.

Most work for social justice is very much in the implicit category. By itself, it is not enough, but it lays a strong foundation for the explicit.

Work for social justice enables people to see the relevance and reality of what we believe. Explicit words about God need to be clothed in implicit actions that evidence this belief.

Martin Luther King Jr. challenged the Christians of his day about an imbalance that we easily fall into: “How often are our lives characterized by a high blood pressure of creeds and an anemia of deeds?”

The Christian faith cannot be reduced simply to our activism. We are not the good news. Our hope is rooted in what God has done in history, what he is doing now and what he will one day complete.

But Christians should be carriers and communicators of this good news in ways that speak to people.

We don’t do this by talking at people, or by painfully crow-barring Jesus into conversations or inviting them to cringy events with hidden agendas.

We do it through living lives that illustrate what we believe, producing what the Bible calls fruit.

In a world of words and opinions, it is our actions that will speak loudest. We must always be ready to give an answer when people ask what we believe (1 Peter 3:15).

But responding openly is far better than trying to give answers to questions people are not even asking.

Many of my closest friends are not churchgoers, but they are interested in faith and the difference it can make.

Along with food banks and night shelters, the living wage movement is a great example of the fruits of faith. And it’s an inclusive movement of which we can all be a part.

So, whatever you believe, why don’t you get moving on a campaign to get your workplace to become a living wage employer? You never know where it may take you.

Jon Kuhrt is executive director of social work at West London Mission and is a member of Streatham Baptist Church in South London. A version of this article first appeared on his blog, Resistance and Renewal, and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @jonkuhrt.