With increasing frequency I find myself consoling acquaintances whom I find shaking their heads and muttering about the world “going to hell in a handbasket.” In many ways I sympathize with these frustrated folk—look at politics, the media, the government, our Darwinian capitalist machine. One can hardly help wringing one’s hands over the state of the country, even the state of the world. But Christians have been given some instructions about the world, instructions along the lines of taking dominion and baptizing the nations and teaching them to obey Jesus. So let’s dispense with the handwringing, shall we, and get on with the business at hand.
Now, there is a lot to say along these lines, and I expect there would be no end to the books we could fill on the subject, but today I want to deal with one little corner of it. Who is your child’s role model? After whom is he patterning his life? This may strike you as a trivial matter. You might be inclined to ask what difference it makes. You might say, Kids go through phases. Whoever he looks up to now will be old news two years from now. There is truth to that; role models change over time for most children. But the role models children adopt for themselves— whether they choose one and stick with him or exchange them with the seasons—are forming how children view the world and live in it.
In Norms & Nobility David Hicks talks about the role “Ideal Types” play in the education of our children. The abbreviated explanation of that role is that we should be pointing our children toward those people who have led virtuous lives worthy of imitation—model lives. Men and women who overcame adversity and trials by persevering in the face of obstacles and living by faith are the best Ideal Types. Jesus, of course, is the ultimate Ideal Type. While it is true no human is perfect as Jesus is perfect, it is also true that many men and women throughout history have lived virtuous lives we should imitate.
The world, however—yes, the one we were wringing hands over in the first paragraph—does not regularly hold up the historic (or current) Ideal Types that fit the aforementioned description. Instead, the world holds up professional athletes, movie stars, pop-music artists, and social media sensations as its ideal types. These are the role models our children too often adopt for themselves when we expose them to that culture and leave them with insufficient guidance in the matter. If that doesn’t scare you, I suggest you watch a film or music awards show, listen to a top-40 station (No, not on the radio; those days are over. Listen on a streaming service where you can get all the juicy lyrics.), scroll the top Instagram pages or Tiktoc videos, read or watch interviews with NBA and NFL stars, or visit a pop-culture internet site like Buzzfeed. If none of that scares you, my hand-wringing friends and I will pray for you.
You will find that the pop-culture icons have bought into, and are also selling, an agenda to undo Judeo-Christian inspired Western culture as it has stood for more than two thousand years. If you have gainful employment, if you respect the law, if you love your neighbor, if you are in a monogamous heterosexual relationship, if you identify as the gender that matches your birth certificate, they want you to believe you are one of the few remaining people who do and that the world has moved on and left you behind. The fact of the matter is your way of life is under attack from the people the world holds up as role models.
So I ask again, who is your child’s role model? After whom is he patterning his life? As his parent, your business is to know the answer to those questions. We parents are often fooled into believing that we have to let our children figure the world out for themselves. Someday, they will have to figure everything out for themselves, but not yet. We have to help them navigate until they have a strong enough foundation to make wise choices as they figure the rest out for themselves. There can be no more important role model in a child’s life than his parents who are following Jesus and modeling the Christian life for their child even as they point beyond themselves to Christ as the Ideal Type, the Ideal Role Model.
Your children need to hear from your own mouth what they are to believe and what they are to scorn at an early age. As they get older, they need to be reminded by you through age appropriate conversation, what behavior is imitable and what behavior is anti-Christ. Parents have to hold up for their children, from birth until they are out in the world on their own, what it is they ought to believe about the world and how they ought to conduct themselves in it. That is our job, parents, and doing anything less is the same as leaving our children to the wolves.
Although it may appear at times that the world is going to judge itself and implode, the truth of the matter is, regular everyday people like you and I, doing regular everyday things like raising our children as God has called us to raise them does more to right the ship and beat back the gates of hell than most other things we can get involved in. Stop wringing your hands and be your child’s role model to the glory of God. If God be for you, who can be against you?