Pastor’s Friday Comments (09.20.19)

There is a scene near the end of the movie October Sky where Homer Hickham, the high schooler and budding rocket scientist has just come home from a science fair where his team took first place. When the prize was announced, the famed scientist Wernher von Braun had congratulated Homer, but Homer didn’t recognize him.

Homer goes to see his father, with whom he has a complicated and strife-filled relationship, to ask him if he would come watch the launching of a new rocket. His father says he has a lot to do and probably won’t be able to make it, and, as Homer walks off, his dad calls after him: “Hear you met your big hero. Didn’t even know it.”

Homer replies, “Look, I know you and me don’t exactly see eye to eye on certain things. I mean, we don’t see eye to eye on just about anything. But Dad, I come to believe that I got it in me to be somebody in this world. And it’s not because I’m so different from you either. It’s ‘cause I’m the same. You know, I can be just as hard-headed and just as tough. I only hope I can be as good a man as you are. I mean sure, Dr. von Braun’ a great scientist but he isn’t my hero.”

Homer makes a distinction that we need to remember. I’m afraid that it is getting harder and harder to point to people on the public stage as figures worthy of our children’s emulation. Each week seems to bring new revelations about terrible conduct by people in high office or with large public profiles. Truly, if you had to pick up a newspaper (if there happened to be one available) and scanned its pages, of whom would you say, “I want my child to grow up to be like that person”?

Sure, it’s the bad guys who make the headlines, but, even when our children are seeking to model themselves after worthy examples, we shouldn’t make the mistake that Homer’s father did. Kids may want to have a career like someone in the public eye, but they need their parents to be their heroes.

A man once came to tell me that he thought I was too political in my preaching. One of several instances he cited was when I called out the egregious public behavior of an elected official. He didn’t deny that the official had acted as was reported, but his defense was along the lines of “all men do that kind of stuff.”

No.

They don’t.

We live in a course and insensitive age, where excuses are made for behavior that is inexcusable. And as parents and Christians, we have both the mandate and the responsibility to teach our children differently. Be your child’s hero, the person up to whom he or she looks. Use words if you think they’re necessary, but mainly by your conduct show them what a real Christian gentleman or gentlewoman looks like.

Show them that we tell the truth. We don’t make up stuff to make ourselves look better or to cover mistakes.

Show them we treat people with kindness and respect. We don’t give others demeaning nicknames as an alternative to engagement in civil dialogue with people with whom we disagree.

Show them we treat everyone equally. We don’t draw hard lines between “us” and “them” that encourage hatred or disrespect toward anyone who is different.

Show them how to treat members of the other sex. By your conduct and your speech, show them how you avoid objectifying people and how you refuse to judge others by their outward appearance.

And perhaps above all else, show them that you make mistakes. None of us are perfect. None of us live up to these ideals that I have just listed all the time. But show them that, as a follower of Jesus Christ, you are trying, and when you fail you admit it, ask for forgiveness (both from God and anyone you may have hurt) and move on.

I’m not sure at other times in my career I would have felt the need to state so specifically these premises that should be so obvious, but in the current culture I feel compelled as a minister of Jesus Christ to bring up these issues again and again. Using Jesus’ metaphors, we are to be salt and light and yeast in our society. We are to make a difference. But the place where we have the greatest chance to make a difference, and the place where I think it counts the most, is in our homes and with our children. Be the hero they need you to be.