Sixty-two college students, 48 inner-city Chicago kids and I went to camp in Michigan. At the Big Brother Big Sister program camp, the opportunities to share Jesus with kids are worth losing sleep and getting dirty for. At camp, the Lord Jesus taught me, by full immersion, more of what it looks like to parent.
At camp when 10-year-old Jumar had to sit out from game time, I opened a window to teach about God’s mercy. Sitting on the sidelines, I asked him, “Jumar, do you know what mercy means?” He shook his head no. “When we give our lives to Jesus, God doesn’t give us what we deserve. For breaking His Law, we deserve Hell. Instead, He gives us life with Jesus here on earth and forever—that’s mercy.” I let Jumar get back in the game five minutes early. With eyes aglow, Jumar said, “That’s mercy.”
According to 1 Thessalonians 5:6 and 1 Peter 5:8, we’re not to remain spiritual babes but to become self-controlled and alert. Yet Jesus commands us in Matthew 18:1-5 to be like children in the simplicity and unwavering nature of our faith. When you explain the Gospel to a child, you’re privileged to boil it down to its most basic truth. Jumar left me reveling anew in the marvelous beauty of the Gospel of God’s mercy toward us. Let the children come to Jesus. Be their guide to Him.
As you’re learning to parent, remember kids don’t need the company of another goofball who’s just like them. They need the companionship of Jesus. Don’t descend all the way to a childish level. Call children up to a higher level. Teach, train, and equip them. Make the most of every opportunity with them. For instance, during the camp scavenger hunt, big and little siblings paired up and walked around the grounds, and I talked with Jumar about his relationship with Jesus, what he believes, and what he’s living for.
At camp, I didn’t bounce off the walls, but I did compliment the children, encouraged their strengths, caught them doing right, urged them to be polite, disciplined them when disobedient, and talked about Jesus constantly. When camp buses dropped us back at Moody, one of the younger boys, named Robert, called, “I want Marcus to walk me home. He’s fun!”
I thought, “No, pal, Marcus isn’t particularly fun. He’s tired, but he is learning to love you from the deepest part of his heart with love that he’s first received from his Savior.” In teaching me to practice unconditional love, Jesus was showing me the heart of parenting.
I’ve been reminded that if you enter a romantic relationship, you must be prepared to become married. Acknowledge also that marriage usually produces children. It’s the Lord’s design. If God’s will for you includes a family, you may be a parent sooner than you think. If His will for you includes no biological kids, you’re in the company of men like Paul and Jesus (1 Th. 2:7; Jn. 13:33). Raise and nurture spiritual children by parenting those younger in the faith as evidenced in 1 Timothy 1:2 and Titus 1:4. Let’s ready ourselves now by studying biblical parenting and sharing the Gospel with children.