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It wasn’t what he expected as a boy

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) — He grew up in a society that was not particularly hostile.

Baptists, Presbyterians and Methodists comprised the religious diversity a young R. Albert Mohler Jr. experienced in Lakeland, Fla.

“That was the culture that I grew up in as a little boy. I don’t think I knew anyone who didn’t go to church,” Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said during a Heritage Week chapel service at the Louisville, Ky., campus.

“Everyone I knew was a Christian of one sort or another, and either went to church or knew they were supposed to go to church, and even when they didn’t, said they did.”

Suffering as a Christian never crossed his mind, Mohler said. “I remember hearing about martyrs and people suffering for their faith and I couldn’t imagine that it could ever happen here. Not in this neighborhood, not in this community.”

As he preached from John 15:18-27, Mohler noted many American Christians are familiar with the persecutions in first-century Rome and the sufferings of the apostle Paul. But most of them may not think the persecution in the passage refers to them as well, Mohler said in his Oct. 15 message.

“This passage is, of course, not completely unfamiliar to us as evangelical Christians in the United States. But for most of evangelical history in America, we have not heard them as particularly addressed to us,” Mohler said.

Some also may take solace in the passage beginning with and repeatedly using the word “if.” Mohler said Christians then believe that suffering is not a normative experience because “if” brings conditionality to Jesus’ words.

The “if” collapses in light of John 15:20 and the crucified Jesus, Mohler said. Jesus declares that suffering and persecution is the normative experience for all Christians because the world hated Him.

Other problems with the passage may occur because Christians do not have a proper understanding of hatred. Most people in the world do not seem to hate God, Mohler said. “If you take a poll or survey in America and most people will say, know they are supposed to say, and probably mean to say nice sweet things about Jesus.”

While Christians do not expect to hear orthodox responses, knowing that worldly views will be unbiblical and insufficient, they do not expect them to be hostile, he said.

“We expect to hear that He was a great teacher; He was a wonder worker; He was a great and kind person who helped people; He was a miracle worker; He was a loyal instructor,” Mohler said.

Christians expect to hear these kinds of responses, yet what makes the Gospel of John so interesting, Mohler said, is that Jesus is the one saying those who hate Him do not appear to hate Him.

Jesus had a proper understanding of hatred, Mohler said. In biblical terms hatred is a lack of obedience and a refusal to love.

Understanding this passage changes many things for Christians. Hatred is a process, Mohler said. “It starts with a lack of obedience and ends up on a cross.”

Mohler concluded with observations on how the growing threat of persecution in America could alter the purpose of Southern Seminary.

“Maybe the mission of this school is actually to train up a generation of preachers, missionaries and evangelists who will be martyrs,” Mohler said.

“Opposition from the world,” he said, “is an opportunity to witness.”

Southern Seminary’s Heritage Week this year included the fall trustee meeting, Southern Seminary Foundation meeting, Preview Day for prospective students, and a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry.

Audio and video from Mohler’s sermon are available at sbts.edu/resources.