“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (NIV, emphasis mine) 1 Peter 3:15-16
I am writing this post a few days after “support Chick-fil-A day”, and during a time in which several of my new hospice patients have indicated their denominational preferences during the intake interview by saying something to the effect of “I used to be Baptist but now I’m a Christian.” We’ve had some good-natured teasing about that in the office but it started me thinking about how the world perceives Christians of all denominations and how our own actions, while well-intentioned, may come across in ways that are less than loving and Christ-like.
Accountability, having a clear conscience, is not just about doing the right thing. It is about doing the right thing in the right way. Scripture tells us what that is: with gentleness and respect. For example, this week many took a stand for the scriptural view of marriage without making statements of hate and anger against a group of people.
When we give an anwer with gentleness and respect we open the door to conversation and reconciliation. We open the door to relationship. That’s what Jesus did and that’s what changes lives.
How do we as social workers maintain an attitude and spirit of gentleness and respect? Here are a few suggestions:
- Meticulously maintain your own personal relationship with Christ. Prayer and scripture reading should be your most used line of offense and defense – not your last resort.
- Keep your role clear. We are not here to judge but to love and guide. ( 1 Cor 13)
- Remember that the most aggravating, impossible patient/client/consumer/colleague you have is just as precious to God as you are.
- Remember we are held accountable for anything we do or say that keeps someone from the kingdom of God. (Read Luke 17:2)
- Remember that God has a purpose for you right where he has placed you. Pray every day to be faithful to that purpose, and thank him for the privilege of serving him there. Thank him for providing what you need for each day.
- Remember that the tenets of our profession are not our ultimate authority. When there is a conflict between the profession and scripture pray that God will give you the courage to take a stand and the grace to speak the truth in love.
- When it is necessary to speak a hard truth – and don’t we do that all the time? – we must speak it in love and with a goal of reconcilliation and restoration.
When he called us to service through social work he knew the responsibility we would shoulder and the authority and influence we would wield over broken and ruined lives. Yes, there is great accountability in this place, but with that is the promise of his presence, guidance and power, and when we fail – his never-ending grace.
Thank you for your service. May the gentleness and respect of Christ fill you to overflowing abundance that splashes over each soul you touch today.
Sherri S. has been a social worker for twenty years, first in the field of mental health, and currently as a medical social worker with Emerald Coast Hospice in the Florida panhandle. She has been a member of NACSW since 2011. Connect with Sherri at her own blog at www.sherristone.net