VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (BP) — God calls some Christians to public service in order to uphold justice, Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land told law and government students at Regent University.
In a special lecture sponsored by Regent’s Robertson School of Government, Land cited Romans 13 in saying God ordained civil government, which “exists to curtail evil and to reward the good.” Since government is “divinely ordained,” Land said, he thinks God “does call some of us to be involved in government, because you cannot write laws that will protect you from bad application by evil people.”
“Laws can only do so much to bring about justice,” said the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “If you are really going to have justice in a society, then you are going to have to have people who are seeking justice within the system who are working in the system …”
Americans have a “magnificent system [of government], better than anybody else’s…. But our system [alone] can’t protect us from abuse by evil men and evil women,” Land told the students. “We need for godly men and women to be willing to be open to the prospect that God’s will for your life may be to go into public service, to serve as a godly civil servant, to serve as a godly legislator, to serve as a godly person in public office, to be salt and light.”
Referring to Jesus’ command in Matthew 5 for His disciples to be salt and light, Land said obedience to Christ does not permit a withdrawal from society: “We’re not supposed to go into a holding pattern until it’s time to go up and be with Jesus. We’re called to serve and to engage the world, to stop the decay and to be the light of hope.”
The call to influence government and its policies can come in at least two forms, Land told his audience. They are: 1) a call to ministry that has a public policy component, and 2) a call to public service that has a ministry component. Land said he believes God has called him to the former.
Land became convinced he had a ministry calling with a public policy aspect when he served for 15 months as executive assistant to Texas Gov. William Clements, he said. In 1987, Land took a leave of absence from his position as vice president for academic affairs at Criswell College in Dallas to help shepherd pro-life legislation through the Texas legislature.
One of the ways this ministry calling with a public policy component is expressed in Land’s life is in his current service on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. The commission is a congressionally created, bipartisan panel that advises the White House, State Department and legislators on the global condition of religious liberty.
He encouraged the students to seek to know God’s will for their lives. While he believes there is a call to full-time service in a church, Land said he also believes, “along with Martin Luther and John Calvin and the Reformation, that Christian vocation extends way beyond those who are in the ministry.”
“God does not have an off-the-rack will for your life,” he said in commenting on Romans 12:1-2. “He has a particular will for your life that’s tailor made for you…. God has called you to a particular calling. You may not even know what it is. You may think it’s the furthest thing from your mind.”
Being president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s ethics entity was not a consideration when he was a student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Land told his audience in the Sept. 29 lecture.
“[I]f you had asked me — What are the 500 jobs you might one day have in Southern Baptist life? — being head of what was then the Christian Life Commission would not have been one of them,” he said. “In fact, I used to vote to defund the Christian Life Commission when it was the most liberal agency in Southern Baptist life,” and now he is its head.
God will lead those He has called to the role He has for them, Land said.
“If you are willing to sign the check and let God fill in the amount, God will fill in the right amount,” he told the students. “If you are willing to sign your autobiography and let God write the chapters, God will lead you in the way you should go.”
Regent has a strong Southern Baptist presence in its student body, school officials said. Southern Baptists have the largest denominational representation in both the School of Government and the university, which is nondenominational. About 30 percent of the students in the post-graduate School of Government are Southern Baptists. About 13 percent of Regent University students are Southern Baptists.
Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.