Clerics on role of godparents and spiritual relevance
Some families place emphasis on having godparents for their children. The idea is to pattern their children after successful figures and mentors. Are families still interested in this tradition, and do godparents still play their traditional role of assisting adopted children grow up in the way of the Lord and become productive adults? CHRIS IREKAMBA reports.
‘If Children Are Wayward Blame Godparents Because They’ve Abdicated Their Role’
(His Eminence, Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie)
We are in a godless society, which is not ready to hear anything spiritual or about God. The society has become so materialistic, which has affected the lives of people, including the so-called godparents. The role of godparents is to rightly guide the child in a godly way. They are to even assist parents in training of the child, as the parents may not be there all the time. The godparent’s role does not just end at a child’s baptism, where you drop some token amount of money and you’re gone. The role is much more than that. The responsibility is for life, as you are expected to continue to guide and monitor that child till death, and that’s what those who take up that responsibility do not understand.
It is not for you to wait until that child becomes a big man or big woman, and then any day you like you show up and say: ‘Didn’t you know I was your godfather/godmother?’ But what help did you render when he/she was put in your care? Now that God has blessed the child, you want to show yourself as his godfather or godmother. That ‘without me you can’t be what you are today.’ But then, what help did you render to him/her and even to the parents? In what way did you contribute to his/her spiritual wellbeing? Those are the roles you are supposed to play as a godfather or godmother. If he/she is married, you are also expected to play same role, to ensure that the marriage succeeds. Even at confirmation and wedding, we have godparents. You must play your role as a true godfather or godmother. But where are these people today? If they were really playing their role, the society and today’s children wouldn’t be what we’re seeing today. The society is so materialistic.
The role is still relevant today. For instance, in our church, if you are getting baptised, or have confirmation or wedding, we ensure that these people are available. It is now left for the priest to let the godparents know what their responsibilities are. And I’m sure most priests are doing that.
For example, we light a candlestick and give it to you at baptism to show you the way to God and not to material things. And the admonition is that the candlestick must not go off, as it has spiritual connotation. But unfortunately, these people no longer play their role as expected of them. And so, if the society is bad as you and I have witnessed that majority of children are wayward, they no longer have respect for elders, youths are getting involved in kidnapping as well as becoming yahoo yahoo boys. To me, you don’t blame the children. Rather, you blame the adults, because they are expected to show good example for children to emulate.
For instance, look at the woman that was caught in adultery. Her accusers brought her before Jesus, but when Jesus said ‘if anybody among you who has no sin should cast the first stone at her,’ and knowing they were also guilty of same offence, they began to walk away. They left the woman alone with Jesus.
‘Social Misbehaviour Among Youths Is Largely Due To Negative Exposure, Not Godparents’
(Bishop Dr. Moses A. Adedipe, General Superintendent, The Universal Christian Missions International (TUCMI), Lagos)
Godparents are traditionally individuals who have been vested with the responsibility of nurturing a child in such a way that the child becomes well formed spiritually and morally for the betterment of the society. They may or may not be related to the child. It is an age-long tradition that has really helped in the formation of a guided and cultured society. However, times have changed. The value systems have eroded, the pillars of character in the society have either shifted or are being removed.
Although godparents were not specifically mentioned in the Bible, Proverbs 22:6 brings up a very critical point by arguably the wisest king that ever lived (King Solomon). “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” In an expanded scope, the responsibility to train up a child does not solely rest with the biological parents. In our extended family formations, circle of friends and even in religious circles, we find certain individuals that still play the role of godparents, ensuring that a child is pointed in the right and godly direction in life. This role is not necessarily a formal or legal one. In my reckoning, the role of godparents is still very relevant, even in today’s modern society.
We have issues of social misbehaviour among our youths, due largely to negative exposure to and unguided use of technology (Internet), as well as inability to effectively manage the quantum of information at their disposal. In some respect, globalisation has also had a very negative influence on the character formation for many of our youths. Decadence is progressing because of some cross-cultural confusion. Role modeling is shifted to fictional hardcore characters in fast paced, violence-loaded movies that can be downloaded via multiple media platforms. We are all living witnesses as to how things have terribly gone bad. The rot is deep in our society.
The main solution remains going back to God, and also putting resources together to strengthen the family background, where parents and godparents play out their God assigned roles. The government also has a lot to do in this regard, via mass reorientation programmes, economic/financial empowerment and re-injecting a strong sense of national pride to the populace.
May God help us to uphold systems that would produce the kind of society we would all be proud to live in and handover to succeeding generations.
‘Economic Factors Also Negate Godparents’ Contributions’
(Most Revd. S. G. Abimbola JP, Archbishop of Lagos, The First African Church Mission)
Like every other practice in the church, godparents are still relevant and important. Up till now, whenever child baptism is being done, godparents are always required to guide and mould the child’s growth in the fear of the Lord.
However, unlike before, when a child and godparents may be around in the neighbourhood for close to 10 or more years, it’s a different story now. It is either the godparents relocate to new neighbourhood, owing to economic factors and such other issues, or the child may be in the boarding school. Some go to boarding from nursery.
Equally, godparents may pursue careers that hardly allow them time to look after their children, talk less of godsons or goddaughters who may not also have time due to education or other engagements.
In all, we still have a handful of godparents who are steadfast with the practice, but from our vantage position as ministers, they are mostly retirees and have more time to monitor these children.
Nonetheless, the menace can be curbed from the home. What value are we inculcating in our children? As parents, we are the best examples for them to follow. You cannot act without the fear of God and expect your children to fear God. When you lie with reckless abandon, you cheat and you don’t feel remorseful and your children see this and know you with such practices, God help such household in the future.
As parents, we must learn to sharply condemn any practice that these children may want to exhibit, which negates the teaching of our faith, as failure to do so portends future danger, as was the case of Eli and his children. 1Sam. 2:12, 22-25.
We must all be praying parents for our children. God help us all.
‘Parents Should Be Careful Of Those They Pick As Godparents
(Rt. Rev. Dr. James Olusola Odedeji, Diocesan Bishop of Lagos West, Anglican Communion)
That role is very crucial and important in one’s life because whatever happens to that child, your name is at stake. Any time that child does anything wrong or disobeys his/her parents, the godparent is the first they will report to. It becomes your responsibility to call that child to order, and you should be able to monitor that child and ensure he/she is well behaved. And if those who have accepted that responsibility are doing it well, then the society would have been better than it is now. And so, in taking up the responsibility, either at baptism or any other event, you must count the cost. As a godparent, you must see that child as part of your own family. As you’re training and nurturing your own children to be good citizens, that’s the same way God expects you to take care of that child.
It is still very relevant today, but I think where we should be very careful is those we pick as godparents. When people come to ask for such favour from me, I usually tell them that I don’t have the time. I ensure that I accept those I can really monitor and guide.
For example, Brother Sola Sholanke has a son, who’s like a godson to me. I ask about him virtually all the time. In fact, sometimes I become a nuisance. When I go to his school, I ask his teacher and the principal about the young man, and how he is doing with his studies. I will tell the principal that this one is my godsons. So, people should not just accept for accepting sake, the responsibility is much more than that.
For instance, my own godfather, who stood for me when I was baptised when he was alive, he was always looking for me. And anytime he listened to good sermons and other topical issues, he would send them to me. He ensured that I grew up well. That is why I said there’s nothing bad in having godfathers and godmothers. It should not get to a point when you are all on your own without anybody calling you to order, with nobody asking you what you are doing and things like that. For instance, the Bible says in Proverbs 22:6 that we should teach a child the way he should go, and when he grows, he will not depart from it.
Look at those of us who were brought up by strict parents, we still have decorum till tomorrow. No matter how hungry I am, I don’t eat just anywhere. I am very conscious when sitting down and talking to elders. There is always a voice inside telling me this man is an elder, who should be respected. But these days, we leave our children in the care of houseboys/girls. These people have not taken care of themselves, how much more taking care of your own child. For those who have accepted to be godparents, I call on them to do their job dutifully.
It is also biblical, because when you look at the story of Elijah and Elisha, Elijah was a godfather to Elisha. He brought him up for the purpose of good succession. There is no success without a successor. Like the boy I mentioned earlier, he is an altar boy today and who knows, he might have a calling of God upon his life. Elisha too had somebody called Gehazi, who never made it to the end. Another good example is Moses and Joshua. When the former died, God said to Joshua, ‘As I was with your father Moses, so will I be with you.’ That is a godfather. Remember Paul, Silas and Timothy. Timothy was Paul’s godson and so on. It is not only those that you gave birth to that are your children. Those who accept the offer should be able to do well for the child’s spiritual wellbeing.
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