The Wrong Leader
“Now Rosie, I want to talk about something before we go in,” Mother said as she parked in front of the tall gray house. “Even though Aunt Meg’s family call themselves Christians, they aren’t really living for Jesus. That is why Dad and I don’t let you play with your cousins much. We don’t want you to be encouraged in the wrong things.”
“So I can’t play with Janice?” asked Rosie.
“While I visit with Aunt Meg, you may play together,” Mama said slowly. “But I want you to be careful to play how Jesus would want you to, okay?”
Rosie nodded and pushed open the car door. Janice had come over before and it had always been great fun. Nothing would go wrong today, Rosie was sure. She took the steps two at a time.
“Oh, hi,” Janice said from the open door. “My friend, Juliann, is over, but you can play with us.” Excitedly, Rosie followed her cousin’s bobbing curls up the stairs and into the large, toy-filled bedroom. She hesitated at the door when she saw a dark-haired girl flopped on the bed.
“That’s Juliann,” Janice said. “Come on in, Rosie, and see what an awesome artist she is.” Rosie looked at the picture of a flying horse. It did look almost real, except for the wings.
“It’s nice,” Rosie said, joining the others on the bed.
“She can draw cool people, too,” said Janice. “Last week she won a prize in our church fair.” She held up a picture of a curly-haired woman with large earrings. “That’s Pastor Will’s wife.” Rosie didn’t think the lady looked very much like someone who loved God, but didn’t say anything.
“I’m going to be a movie artist when I grow up,” said Juliann. “Hey Jan, can I see your new movie-star Barbie?” Janice pulled a shiny box out of the closet.
Rosie didn’t know what to do. She knew movie stars weren’t good, but she was curious what one would look like. The doll inside was very pretty, with a tight, sparkling dress that wasn’t at all modest. Mother wouldn’t want her to play with something like that. Rosie looked around at the other toys and spotted a pony with flowing hair. “Do you have more toy horses?” she asked Janice.
“A whole lot of them,” Janice said, taking several plastic models from her shelf. “You can play with them. I’m going to get the whole Hollywood Hero Series soon.” Rosie fingered the beautiful horses carefully. One was a white mare with her darling colt. Another was a prancing bay stallion.
“Wish I could go to horse camp,” said Juliann with a long sigh. “But Dad won’t let me. Phooey!”
“I wish I could have a horse like this,” added Janice, holding up a pinto. “Hey, I have an idea. Let’s play Mustang Herd!” Rosie liked the game until Janice started making her horses fight and call each other bad names. Juliann giggled and joined in, but Rosie was quiet. She knew Jesus wouldn’t want her to play that way, but she didn’t want to leave. Rosie jumped when she heard cousin Billy’s voice at the door.
“My Ninja-Turtle wants to play,” he said, holding a green creature in one hand and a toy gun in the other. “Hands-up!” He marched into the room and poked the gun at Juliann, who screamed.
“It’s Bill the Pill!” Janice cried. The girls ran shrieking into the hall and Rosie followed, the toy horses piled into her skirt. They had barely escaped into the bathroom and locked the door when Billy was at the door, yelling like a wild Indian.
“Hide in the bathtub!” cried Juliann.
“It’s a robber!” said Rosie. “He’ll steal the horses!”
“Toothpaste!” yelled Janice, grabbing several tubes from a drawer. “If you dare come in, Bill, we’ll squirt you!”
As they sat in the dark tub, suddenly everything grew silent outside, and Rosie could hear her heart pounding. Footsteps were coming up the stairs.
“Janice, open the door!” Aunt Meg said. Janice dropped the toothpaste as she tumbled out of the tub.
“Billy was chasing us again, Mom,” she said, poking her head out the door. “He’s just a big pest and always ruins our games!” She talked loudly so the moms wouldn’t hear them scrambling to pick up the toys and toothpaste. But Rosie knew Mama would be asking her all about it, and she felt nervous.
“Why were you running away from Billy?” Mother asked, when they met in the hall.
“I don’t know,” Rosie said in a small voice. She felt quite ashamed now.
“He said you were going to squirt him with toothpaste. Is that true?” Rosie blushed and looked down. “You must apologize to Billy and Aunt Meg,” Mother said, after she had heard the story. “I am very sorry this has happened.”
“Mama?” Rosie asked, after they had turned onto the highway toward home. “Mama, are you mad at me? I was trying to play nicely. I didn’t mean to get into trouble.”
“I know, dear,” Mother said gently, “but there is an important lesson to learn from this. In the excitement of playing you didn’t stop to think about what was the right thing. That is why the Bible says, ‘evil communications corrupt good manners.’ (1 Corinthians 15:33) Being around bad examples will make us bad, too. That is why we don’t allow you to play much with them. Do you think Jesus would have played like they did?”
“No.” Rosie looked down. “They didn’t talk very nicely, and it really wasn’t a good game.”
“But you didn’t want to leave because it was exciting?” Mama looked at Rosie closely. “When the devil tempts us with wrong, we must ask Jesus to help us turn away from it. We must hate evil.”
“But it is hard,” said Rosie.
“Then you must pray for help to do right. When I was a little girl I got into lots of trouble because I followed the wrong crowd. And they said they were Christians, too.”
“Why do they say that?” asked Rosie. “Janice talked about church, but it doesn’t seem like she loves God.”
“They say it because they want to look good without paying the price,” Mother said, thoughtfully. “Just like you wanted to do right and stay with the bad influence. But the two can’t go together, can they? We must choose one or the other.”
“So if we always say what is right, we are a real Christian?”
Mama smiled. “God doesn’t look at what we pretend to be,” she reminded. “He looks at what our heart is like.”
“Then I’ll ask Jesus to help my heart be right,” said Rosie.