“For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.”
The passage would apply to both a bishop, preacher, pastor or chaplain. Biblically, the passage shows what a chaplain should be and shouldn’t be. This is very clear and straight forward. However, in my chaplaincy studies, I have noticed many getting, “the cart before the horse.” Many express the human needs and the humanity of the chaplain first and foremost. I will have to disagree and in the next few paragraphs I will explain why.
Chaplains come from many denominations, religions and belief systems. They rely on their own human compassion, caring attitude, desire to serve and empathy. I’m sure many compassionate and good men and women succeed using the better side of the human condition, that is intrinsically sinful, errant and fallible. You don’t have to be Christian to be good, and there are many that are, according to humanism, good. My problem is the reliability of goodness from sinful, errant and fallible people, which we all are, including Christians. The difference is the indwelling Holy Spirit and Biblical truth.
In my opinion, a great chaplain would first be a born-again believer in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Everything else comes after that fact. This would include their humanity, compassion, empathy, sympathy, providing a voice to the oppressed or downhearted, and everything else the Bible describes as the result of Christianity. The ideations of Chaplaincy, like good works, for me are a result of salvation, not a prerequisite. Although, being that type of person that naturally possesses an attitude of compassion and empathy is a plus.
Can humans have compassion without the indwelling Holy Spirit of the Christian God?
The short answer is yes, but that would be a rare person living the Judeo-Christian ethic without salvation, presenting a Christ-like love and compassion without being Christian. In my mind, and in reality, that is the only way a humanistic chaplain could succeed.
Do Christians hold the only source of love and compassion?
No, but humanity is fundamentally sinful and selfish, so other belief systems would, either accidentally or on purpose, use the Judeo-Christian ethic, because humanism is fundamentally self-centered and self-serving. In my personal opinion, a self-centered and self-serving person would make a mediocre chaplain at best.
A chaplain must be an honest, compassionate, good person. A great chaplain must be an honest, compassionate, good person, a born-again believer filled with the Holy Spirit, and a person that knows the Bible is the inspired, infallible Word of God and lives by its precepts. These attributes would provide a chaplain with all the tools necessary to care for anyone of any religion or belief system. These tools could also be applied without any attempt to proselytize, or any attempt to change the persons belief system. The way you present yourself may prompt the person to ask about your beliefs, at which time, sharing those beliefs would be appropriate, but a chaplain is not there to change a person.
Essentially, a chaplain is a person of integrity that is a good listener, comforts, counsels and prays with those that need an empathetic ear and compassionate heart.