by Mike McHugh
Have you ever noticed how many popular toys, particularly for boys, are "action heroes"? Children are naturally drawn to strong personalities that they often use as role models. Names like Superman, Spiderman, Wonder Woman, and GI Joe are but a few of the personalities that have become part of the common vocabulary of children today. As a Christian home school dad, I have noted with some concern, however, that many of the great characters from biblical history seldom seem to appear among the listing of those individuals whom young people regard as heroes. In light of this revelation, I have begun to question why my children, and many of their peers, seem more familiar with Peter Pan than Paul the Apostle. My questioning has led me to ask, "why should my children’s heroes be largely from the realms of fantasy or science fiction when they have biblical characters that they could emulate?
In all probability at least some readers may already be wondering why it is necessary to spend time analyzing who youngsters select as heroes. After all, what children do during playtime can safely be assumed to have little bearing on their educational or spiritual development. Right? … Wrong! Heroes, either real or imagined, do greatly influence children and that influence will either move a child toward Christ or away from Him. The people and things that we permit our children to treasure will have a definite impact upon their hearts. As Jesus taught, "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Matthew 6:21)
For those parents who are still unconvinced of the power of fictional characters, I ask you to consider the person known as Santa Claus. Although this personality is obviously fictional, many adults were so enamored with this heroic character in childhood that they become emotionally charged and deeply upset if you suggest that he is expendable during Christmas time. In fact, it may well be that most American children, as well as adults, could sooner celebrate Christmas without Christ rather than without Santa. Like it or not, even heroes from the realm of fantasy still wield a mighty powerful influence over both children and adults.
When it comes to suitable heroes, the question should also be asked, "Why not choose heroes from the Bible, or at least godly historical figures from by-gone days?" After all, who can think of a better action figure than King David, or perhaps Joshua? Can anyone think of a better human role model than Stephen, the New Testament martyr? The simple and glorious truth is that the characters that children can get to know in the Bible are unsurpassed in terms of their ability to captivate and inspire. Home school parents, therefore, do not need to rely upon the latest fantasy toy to stimulate their child’s imagination. Real heroes, from both sacred and secular history, can supply all that a child needs when it comes to inspiring role models/heroes.
Another superior trait of Biblical characters is that unlike most heroes from make-believe, they are presented as fallible individuals who are capable of both good and bad deeds. The heroes of the Bible are not sanitized or plastic icons, but rather flesh and blood people that did great things for God in spite of their imperfections and fallible wills. For this reason, children should be able to relate more readily to heroes who, after all, are more like them than some abstract creature.
As parents help to guide their children to the point where they begin to select godly heroic role models, care should be taken to ensure that young people receive exposure to a wide variety of heroes. Youngsters need to know that not all heroes come from the ranks of military or political leaders. King David was both a military and political leader, but Esther was also a hero although she never drew a sword or ruled a kingdom. Joseph ruled as a prince in Egypt, but Daniel served God heroically as a prophet and a prayer warrior. Nicodemus showed true courage as he cared for the body of Christ after the crucifixion, yet the women who went first to the tomb where Jesus had lain are also worthy of commendation as "heroes".
More than ever, Christian young people need godly role models and the Bible is the best place to find them. Another good alternative is for youngsters to study the lives of godly individuals from history such as John Wycliffe, Robert E. Lee, and Joni Ericson Tada. Although no mere historical figure can hope to carry the same weight of influence over children as their parents, nevertheless, the quality of heroes that we permit our children to interact with is truly important to their development. Love your children enough to expose them to godly and virtuous heroes whose lives and characters are truly worth modeling. In the end, the old saying from Scripture will ring true, "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise:". (Proverbs 13:20a)
Copyright 2006 Michael J. McHugh
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