Chaplains are basically clergy serving in institutional settings such as hospitals, prisons and the military. We are primarily encouragers, comforters and counselors, providing religious sacraments as necessary to meet a patient or client spiritual need. We function under a code of conduct through the Association of Professional Chaplains or the National Association of Catholic Chaplains. As Board Certified Chaplains we must have a seminary degree and a minimum of four units of CPE, about two years. When I was in training through Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), my supervisor identified a Scripture under which he thought chaplains ought to function, and I agree.
“He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
I note that this Scripture is about action and Christianity and Judaism are active faiths. When we pray we are to be still and listen, but to act on what God has informed us to do in response. Chaplains are caregivers emphasizing the word “give.”
We should act justly as God is just, “And all His ways are just” (Deuteronomy 32:4). God chose Abraham to be His first Patriarch through whom all nations would come. “For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him and keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what He has promised him” (Genesis 18:19). Throughout Scripture we can read about God’s justice and His love of the just; “for the Lord lives the just” (Psalm 37:28). Proverbs 2:8 tells us that God, “Guards the course of the just.” God set up the only King “after His own heart” in Israel. “David reigned over all Israel, doing what was just and right for all his people” (2 Samuel 8:15). Nehemiah and Daniel were other just leaders of God. The Prophets were just and holy in their teachings and actions, even when they were required to be tough. The instructions to the church for Elders in Timothy and Titus tell us that they must be “upright, holy, disciplined and righteous and blameless, trustworthy and able to teach.” The standards for clergy are high and so therefore they will be judged more “strictly” James 3:1 admonishes.
Micah also says we should “love mercy,” another attribute of God. “For His mercy is very great” (1 Chronicles 21:13). Nehemiah spoke of how God in His great mercy did not abandon His people. Jesus Himself in teaching told the Pharisees, “If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’ you would not have condemned the innocent” (Mathew 12:7). God is not legalistic but merciful.
God is merciful and He is humble in Jesus. “But gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). The Psalmist says, “He guides the humble in what is right.” Jesus Himself tells us to ‘Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls’ (Matthew 11:29). This is the way we must act and live. It is not easy except through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said of the thorn put in Paul’s flesh, “For my grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in your weakness. Paul was able to say therefore, “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9). We are God’s servants and as Christ’s must offer ourselves in thought and deed “holy and pleasing” to God. He wants a contrite heart, offered up in service of others.