MANILA, Philippines (BP)–The church “must work for peace or we become irrelevant,” Denton Lotz, general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance, said.
Yet “God is God and he will bring his kingdom in his time,” Lotz said in an address to the Asian Baptist Federation Congress.
Speaking against the backdrop of the bombings by Filipino militants and tensions in the Middle East during the April 19-23 gathering in Manila, Philippines, Lotz said Christians are involved “in the struggle for justice and righteousness, knowing that we will never ultimately achieve it. But nevertheless we are called upon to struggle and die every day for Jesus in being visionaries for that peace which he brings.”
Lotz noted a division in the church when it comes to peace and peacemaking. “On the one hand,” he said, “there are conservatives who say it is impossible to love like Jesus and impossible to change governments or societies. Therefore we shall sit in our beautiful churches and mediate and pray, but we know we cannot bring in the kingdom.
“On the other hand,” Lotz said, “there are liberals who say we must go out and be mediators and workers for peace. We must march and demonstrate for peace. We must challenge the evil structures of capitalism and all the war machines of profit and gain.
“I believe both are wrong,” Lotz said, while emphasizing the need for both. “There is still racism in the world and we must continually fight against it. There are still dictators in the world and we must continually confront them. There is still injustice and poverty and we must struggle against injustice and become defenders of the poor.
“But we must always remind ourselves of the prophetic vision that included judgment because there is sin in the world,” Lotz said. “That movement which does not take sin seriously often itself becomes sinful and totalitarian.”
Lotz warned against blessing any economic or political systems “because they are infiltrated with original sin and are essentially anti-Christ.”
“We do not lift up ourselves, or our governments,” he said, “but we work within our society to be peacemakers.”
Lotz reminded the congress of the biblical vision for world peace in Isaiah 2:1-5 and 9:6-7, of “a new heaven and a new earth.”
“It is this vision of the biblical peace that encourages us to keep on working for peace,” Lotz said.
“The world needs peace, but it needs most of all the Messenger of Peace,” he said. “In Jesus Christ we meet God’s embodiment of peace.”
Lotz said the world took and continues to take offense at Jesus Christ. “He is the still the stumbling block,” he preached. “They nailed him to a cross and they still nail him to a cross, but God’s vision cannot be stopped, cannot be killed. God’s vision cannot be eradicated or shot down or imprisoned. Jesus rose from the dead and in this resurrection all humanity now has a vision of peace incarnate.”
Referring to the apostle Paul’s words about the breaking down of walls in his letter to the Ephesians, Lotz said, “The great vision of Paul … is that Jesus has broken down all the walls that have prevented peace, that have separated races and tribes and nations. In his own body he has brought us together.”