The author of a book I read asked several people whom they considered their spiritual “masters”. In the author’s mind, the term meant someone to whom the people looked for spiritual guidance and to gain understanding and wisdom. The answers ranged from Zen teachers to Vincent Van Gogh to Charles Darwin and more. Some cited religious writers like Annie Lamott, various Catholic saints or the Dalai Lama. Others leaned towards pop culture with names like Dr. Andrew Weil, history with Ben Franklin and even Gloria Steinem. Yet not one person, mentioned Jesus.
One would assume if the same question were asked of people in your congregation, Jesus would top the list. Yet, when one examines the behaviors of one holding up someone as a hero to whom they look up and follow, I would imagine a very different picture would emerge. Whom do they quote the most? A preacher? A Christian author? When someone asks them for advice, whose writings do they suggest the person read? To whom would they give lots of money to hear speak or rush to buy their latest book? Who do they secretly wish they were most like? Whom do they talk about all of the time? Unfortunately, I am afraid even in our churches, the answer would quite often be someone other than Jesus.
The problem isn’t new, as Paul addressed it in his New Testament writings. Your children will look up to a lot of people over the years. When kids are very young, parents are often their first heroes. As they become more aware of the outside world, your children may admire teachers, authors, athletes, musicians and actors. The critical question is does Jesus even make their list of heroes?
As a Christian parent and one of your children’s original heroes, it is so important you point your children back to God. It’s great that our kids admire and love us, but they need to understand we are only human and will make mistakes. They need to realize even the best preacher or author who ever lived, still sinned. They need to comprehend heroes outside of Christianity may encourage them to follow them in ways that are actually contrary to how God wants them to live their lives.
Looking up to others to encourage ourselves to grow and improve is not sinful. We have to protect our children though from allowing those people to replace God in their hearts. We need to protect them from rejecting God because someone they had equated with God, sins – because they all will. We need to protect them from blindly following someone they see as “cool” until they are so far away from God’s path, they have trouble imaging how they can ever get back.
Listen to your kids. Hear the admiration in their voices when they talk about someone. Celebrate with them the admirable qualities of the person, but help them remember no one is a perfect hero. Except Jesus.