Whether we call them heroes or not, all of us have people we admire. Children and teens don’t always have discernment when it comes to their heroes. They are just as likely to have a fictional hero as a real one. They may also struggle to understand that every person we admire has strengths and weaknesses (and sins). It can be difficult for them to sort out the beliefs and behaviors of a hero that are worth trying to copy and those which they should reject. This can cause them to make poor choices in their attempts to be “just like” their heroes. There is a fun family devotional you can do to encourage them to use discernment with heroes.
Tell or read to your children the story found in Exodus 1. Ask your children if they notice something odd about verses 15 and 16. Point out that the Pharaohs in Egypt were at this time, powerful world leaders. Note, however, that God does not think it is important to tell us the name of this Pharaoh (even though his name would be familiar to us even today), but God does give us the names of the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah. They would be considered “nobodies” to the Egyptians at the time. After all, they were merely slaves who helped other slaves give birth to their babies. Yet God thought it was important for us to know their names.
Ask your children why they think God may have wanted us to know their names. We don’t know for sure, but it may be because they, not Pharaoh, were the true heroes of this story. They risked their lives to do what they knew would God would want them to do. Ask them if they can think of other examples in the Bible of people who their world might have considered unimportant, but the Bible felt it was important for us to know their names and stories. With teens, you may also want to point out that many people whom God later placed in powerful positions – like David and Esther – started out as unimportant people in their worlds. You may even want to look at Hebrews 11 for more heroes and the reasons God considered them heroic.
Ask your kids to name someone they admire or would consider a hero. Point out that even the heroes mentioned in the Bible sinned at times. The Bible doesn’t always share these weaknesses with us, but it tells us the only perfect one who has lived on Earth is Jesus. Explain that all people – even heroes and those we admire have weaknesses and sin at times. Our only perfect model (from whom we can copy everything he did) is Jesus.
Give your children some blank paper and art supplies. Encourage them to draw a picture of someone other than Jesus/God they admire. It can be a fictional hero or someone who is real. Encourage them to use words or drawings to illustrate that person’ strengths and weaknesses. Then give them another sheet of paper. Have them list the admirable things about Jesus. Note that since Jesus was perfect, he had no weaknesses. Have them share both drawings with your family.
End with a discussion of how to make wise choices when wanting to be more like someone else and how ultimately, Jesus is the best hero of all to mimic. Remind them that it may be okay to let the strengths of others motivate them to have similar strengths, but they can never truly depend on any person to be perfect. Their faith has to ultimately be in Jesus, because other people will always eventually make mistakes and sin – even if we don’t know the details (like in the lives of the midwives). Encourage them to think of one way they can work to become more like the ultimate hero, Jesus.