Baptist Pastor Emphasizes Society Built Upon the Gospel

( [email protected] ) May 13, 2004 01:55 PM EDT

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – During the annual conference of the Christian Life Commission of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, May 3-4, in San Antonio, a pastor of Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas spoke of peace making in the gospel way and criticized of advocating capital punishment.

George Mason, the Dallas pastor, emphasized forgiveness is the way to make peace and that Christians have the responsibility to empower human transformation with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

"Forgiveness is the new law of the church that bears witness to the coming kingdom of God and provides at the same time all the stability we need" to attest to God's goodness, said Mason. Forgiveness in Jesus Christ is the "ground of our relations with one another, the starting point for our enactment of justice and the imaginative source for our vision of human transformation."

God made peace with mankind through Jesus' "non-violent self-sacrifice rather than violent retribution," and that is how Christians should make peace with others, said Mason.

Mason also pointed out current stance of the beliefs of conservative and liberal churches that need to be changed. He said the more conservative Christians could become "preoccupied with social power and the need to see society hold people accountable for their sins," whereas the more liberal ones could neglect to recognize that sinners need to be transformed into the image of Christ by "adopting the practices of the gospel" that would lead toward participation in the "new creation."

Mason then condemned the practice of capital punishment saying that it’s inimical to the gospel. He said capital punishment is an outward expression of a dominant culture's need for order and stability but Christ and his church are built on forgiveness and transformation.

Mason asked the participants to be aware that Jesus was an unjust victim of capital punishment and that the early church suffered from it as well. However, when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire under Constantine, Christian views toward capital punishment changed. He said suddenly many supported the idea of capital punishment for those who commit crimes, which was based on the Old Testament.

Mason said as the church started turning to the state, rather than the gospel, in developing its views of justice, its focus changed in interpreting Scripture. "Now the church came to be the chief authorizer of concern for order and stability," he said, which is very detrimental to the church, as such approach "closes off the transformative dimension of the new creation that Christ inaugurated.”

He pointed out that the church’s role to stand up for the marginalized and the most vulnerable became obscured as the church itself was no longer the most vulnerable and rather “the need to justify the privileged place of the church in the society” became more dominant.

As he was explaining of the early churches, Mason said a similar condition is evident today in the United States.

"The church is failing to provide sufficient evidence that there is a third way to deal with injuries against each other," he said, "The lack of attention given to disciplines of grace that must be practiced in our relationships impoverishes our witness to anyone outside the church”