I have no idea what or who my seventeen-month-old daughter will dress up as for our upcoming Halloween events. These days, it’s a big responsibility to make sure that your family costumes are aligned with your values and that the character or theme you are portraying is moral and upstanding. Will we show up as the princess of the year or the cute cartoon character? What if, down the road, the princess is no longer thought of as a good role model for young girls? Or if the cartoon character teaches (whether purposefully or not) a lesson with which I disagree?
As Christians in an ever-changing culture, the question becomes more complex. When we know that all humans are sinful, how do we decide which issues are too big for the person or character to be a role model? When biblical figures are recorded in Scripture as having done wrong, how do we speak with our children about their actions?
Start with Repentance
Whenever we make parenting decisions that have no clear “right” answer, we can ask the Lord to guide us. Assuming we’ve taken the time to use the wisdom God has gifted to us and those around us, we might come back still feeling unsettled about our decision. We can ask the Lord to forgive whatever we’ve done wrong and know that He is there to forgive us. And this is modeled to us by those “biblical wrongdoers.”
In 2 Samuel 11–12, we get the infamous story of David and Bathsheba. Here’s a quick recap: David, a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14), sees the beautiful Bathsheba and asks about her. He discovers she is married but disregards that and sleeps with her. She becomes pregnant. David’s instinct is to try and cover his sin. This does not work. Instead of owning up to his sin, he tries to hide it deeper and orchestrates the death of Bathsheba’s spouse. The Lord sends people into David’s life to call him to repent. And he does.
This repentance that David utters is found in Psalm 51. David has amazing words of repentance that we can repeat to the Lord. The words “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (v. 10) are often said during Sunday worship.
When we model a life of repentance, where we repeatedly go to the Lord with our sin instead of trying to cover it up or pretend like it isn’t affecting us, our children will be able to see that we daily rely on the Lord.
Make No Excuses
One of the most frustrating things is dealing with someone making excuses for someone else. Have you ever seen a teenager do something cruel to another kid? And when adults talk about the situation, all you hear is something to the effect of “they’re so young—they don’t understand how this affects others.” The behavior sometimes continues and truly becomes a problem. And this is often done with our “role models.”
Do not fall into the trap of making excuses or looking for the scapegoat for someone else. Sometimes the answer truly is that they made a bad choice.
The story of David and Bathsheba doesn’t conclude with everything working out for David without consequence for his sin. While God is gracious and forgives, it doesn’t stop the consequence for the action. The death of David and Bathsheba’s baby and the violence between David’s other children resulted from this sin.
When our heroes or role models fall short, instead of acting like it didn’t happen or making excuses for the action, it’s the perfect time to point our kids to the truth of the One who forgives and is perfect.
The One Who Is Perfect
Jesus is the only perfect role model. All others will fall short.
We need the example of Jesus just as much as our children do. Our favorite celebrities, characters, and media tropes are prone to being “bad examples” in our lives. Having role models in media that your kids can relate to and look up to can be a good thing though. Seeing themselves or their interests reflected in others can be motivating and help them express themselves. But these people are imperfect humans in a fallen world. They will fail. Jesus doesn’t disappoint.
Don’t worry too much about choosing the perfect role model for your child to dress up as; Jesus is the only one who is completely perfect. Point your kids to Jesus through making Him a part of your daily, weekly, and monthly routine. Find a devotional tool that works for you, bring your kids to worship, and rely on Him when your chosen heroes fall short.
During October, use the Everyday Faith Calendar to see how biblical heroes dealt with an imperfect world.