Lotz calls for reconciliation
March 13 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Lotz calls for reconciliation | Friday, March 14, 2003

Friday, March 14, 2003

Lotz calls for reconciliation

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

"If Jesus Christ reconciled us vertically, then we need to be reconciled horizontally," Denton Lotz told participants in the 2003 N.C. Baptist Missions Conference and Baptist Men's Convention on March 1.

Lotz, general secretary for the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), called for a movement of reconciliation as the BWA faces a severe budget shortfall newly compounded by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee's decision to reduce its annual contribution by 30 percent. The move by the SBC, currently the largest denominational contributor to the BWA, is widely seen as a reaction to the BWA's anticipated acceptance of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) as a member organization. SBC leaders have spoken against approval of the CBF's membership in the organization, which encompasses 206 Baptist groups in 200 countries worldwide.

"One of the tragedies of the Baptist movement," Lotz said, "is that we have become so clerically oriented that we've lost our strength." That's what early Baptists fought against, he said. They were seeking to be a lay movement.

"What happened to the state church in Europe is coming to America," he said. "We want all the blessings of Christendom, but without Christ, ... That's why we need a lay movement."

Lotz said it was exciting to see so many N.C. Baptist lay-persons involved in missions because "That's what Baptists are all about - getting laymen involved."

The essential elements of revival are lay renewal, conversion theology and unity, Lotz said.

Emphasizing the need for unity, Lotz underscored the importance of the BWA as a supportive partnership of many groups. Sometimes Baptists in North Carolina and the South are so big they sometimes don't think they need anybody else, Lotz said, but for smaller bodies in places like Poland, Austria, Belgium and Bangladesh, "it really means something to belong to this large family of people called Baptists."

Lotz named several countries where Baptists suffer severe human rights abuses and need help.

"We belong together not just because of our history, but because of Jesus Christ," he said. "That's why we need one another. That's why you in North Carolina don't need to defund the BWA, you need to support the BWA.

"Christ is the center, not any of our guidelines are the center, but Christ is the center of the Baptist movement."

Lotz related how large elephants in a herd will sometimes wade into a swiftly flowing river and stand shoulder to shoulder, slowing the current so smaller elephants can cross safely. Big Baptist elephants need to stand together to support the smaller ones, he said, to promote human rights and evangelism all around the world.

"We belong to each other because we belong to Jesus Christ," Lotz said. "That is the true center of the Baptist movement."

Lotz described his experience as a soldier in Okinawa in 1962, as the Vietnam conflict was getting underway. He had wanted to be a politician but his personal experience with the realities of war led to a desire to focus on Christian means of reconciliation.

Citing Jacob and Esau as biblical antagonists, Lotz read from Gen. 27, the story of how Esau came to hate Jacob and threatened to kill him, leading Jacob to flee.

"We live in a world of bitterness and hatred," Lotz said. As an example, the communist empire managed to hold many disparate peoples together and suppress their hostilities, but when the communist world came apart, the old hatreds and conflicts re-emerged, he said, setting countries and ethnic groups against each other.

Racial hatred continues to be a problem, especially in the cities, Lotz said, recalling an experience when he was a 17-year-old freshman at the University of North Carolina. Lotz invited a black student to attend church with him, where he was informed that blacks were not welcome. "It was that experience that began to make me a radical Baptist, a radical Christian," he said.

Lotz said Baptists should work not only for racial reconciliation, but also for reconciliation among families, and reconciliation in the church. "I'm proud of North Carolina because you have stayed together," he said.

While we live in a world where people hate one another as Jacob and Esau did, Jesus issued the difficult call to love one another, Lotz said.

After 20 years, Jacob sought to be reconciled with his brother, he said. The night before he was to meet Esau, he remained alone and wrestled with God through the night. "Reconciliation begins when we are left alone to cry through the night," Lotz said. "The tragedy of a secular culture is that we're never alone."

Jacob did not want to let go of God without His blessing. "That's the kind of prayer we need," Lotz said, noting that Jacob named the place "Peniel" because he believed he had seen God face to face. Reconciliation does not begin in a counseling room, Lotz said, "it begins when you meet God face to face - then you're ready for reconciliation with your brother."

When the brothers met, Esau surprised Jacob by embracing him rather than harming him, weeping as the two of them were reconciled. Jacob responded by saying, "to see your face is like seeing the face of God" (Gen. 33:10).

For reconciliation to happen, Lotz said, we must "be able to look into the faces of our enemies and see the face of God."

Jacob could do this because he had first seen the face of God, Lotz said. Christians have seen the face of God in Jesus Christ.

Lotz related instances in which reconciliation has taken place in Germany, in Russia, and in Korea. Jesus came to give us a new heart, he said. "Thanks be to God, that in looking into the face of Christ, we have seen the Father and we may become ministers of reconciliation."

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3/13/2003 11:00:00 PM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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