What is the mind of God concerning the ways we observe and celebrate the rites of passage? The mind of God is that we worship Him as we rejoice over our achievements in life. Many Christians do not see the celebration principally and most importantly as an occasion to appreciate the goodness of God in a worship service.

Graham Kendrick says: The true quality and depth of our love for God will to a very great degree be evidenced by the quality and depth of our worship. When we value somebody, we do things to demonstrate that love; we put our thanks, appreciation and adoration into words. We give gifts and show that we care, in practical ways.

Some may suggest that re-structuring celebration ceremonies as worship services may destroy the worship of God because of a tendency to display the wealth and glamour of individuals during such celebrations. If Christians truly understand that worship is for God’s pleasure, we will not display our wealth and glamour to be praised by others. Instead, we will display the essence of our being, worship of our Creator.

Worship is dynamic and dialogical. Worship, to be acceptable to God, does not necessarily mean the absence or presence of dancing and jubilation. Dancing is a genuine expression of worship activity when done solely for the glory of God and to appreciate His goodness to us. Let us attempt to discover how rites of passage were observed and performed in the Scriptures.

Child Naming

The Hebrew word “Adam” can mean man or mankind. God gave him that name (Genesis 1:26). The same God gave Adam the right to give names to whatever He created (Genesis2:19-20). God gave the intuition. “Man’s knowledge given of God must have been very extensive, and his language fully developed, for He made no change in Adam’s work.”

Adam subsequently called his helpmate “woman,” meaning the feminine of man and the mother of all living(Genesis 2:23, 3:20). The Bible does not record any elaborate fanfare during the naming ceremony conducted by Adam. Neither was any ceremony recorded during the birth and naming of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:2). Seven children were given their names before they were born. They were Ishmael, Isaac, Solomon, Josiah, Cyrus, John the Baptist and Jesus Christ.

The cultural practice of giving a name to a child on the eighth day, which includes circumcision, began when the Abrahamic covenant was enlarged (Genesis 17:6-14; Leviticus 12:3).

During the naming of our Lord, Jesus Christ, five customs were fulfilled. These were the circumcision, child naming, ceremonial purification of Mary, presentation of Jesus to God and offering of sacrifices (Luke 2:21-24). There is no doubt that the mind of God was known and fulfilled in this particular worship service. There must have been some rejoicing in God. “Whether therefore you eat or drink or whatsoever ye do all to the glory of God”(1 Corinthians 10:31).

Child Circumcision

Child circumcision, as described in chapter one, is the removal of the foreskin of the organ of the male while it is the cutting or surgical removal of the clitoris of the female child. In some cultures, circumcision is seen as a rite of passage, especially for a girl to enter womanhood. It is done at puberty in some places with fanfare and ceremony.

The mind of God on child circumcision can be seen in the Scripture. The strongest point in favour of female circumcisions is that it controls female sexual desires. It must be understood that female circumcision was not practised in Bible times. (Only male circumcision is approved in Genesis 17:10.It is biblical and wholesome as it borders on personal health hygiene and enhances sexual performance.) Female circumcision can lead to loss of blood and infections. It is not biblical, so no culture or customary practices should take precedence over biblical teachings.

Virginity is valued in the Bible (Deuteronomy 22:20-22). Christians are to transform culture. (See Acts 5:29, Matthew 6:31, Romans 12:2, Colossians 3:1-2 and Joshua 24:15.) God commands us to teach our children, to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of God (Ephesians 6:4)

A female who is controlled by the Spirit of God will know how to control sexual desires and expressions. She will see herself and her body as the temple of God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). God expects both males and females to enjoy sex within the boundary of marriage.

We should not curtail the sexual desires of the female gender by taking them to the slaughterhouse. Females who are circumcised are subjected to violence and abuse. They live with fear and hatred for the male gender.

The church of God must preach and teach against the unwholesome, barbaric and ungodly practice of female circumcision. The law banning it must be enforced. It should no longer be seen as a rite. The enlightenment campaign against it must be intensified.

Marriage Ceremony

Marriage is an institution ordained by God to fulfil the physical, spiritual and economic requirements of both partners. It is “the state in which a man and a woman live together in a sexual relationship with the approval of their social group.” Marriage is a means of procreation.

A marriage that is spiritual, vibrant and responsible is a great asset to the local church and it is also the apple of God’s eye. God provided Eve for Adam to meet all marital obligations and it remained so until sin entered the human race to distort, disrupt and destabilise the plan of God for humankind. Scores of other things make marriage dysfunctional in this “modern time.”

God expects marriage to be enjoyed and not to be endured. The “creation of personhood (sexual nature and social nature)and an environment for living” for a man before his creation shows that marriage is important to God as all structures that would not make it fail were put in place.

Engagement or Betrothal in Marriage

The first biblical reference to the issue of betrothal is found in Genesis chapter 24. Abraham’s servant prayed for God’s guidance in choosing a wife for Isaac from Abraham’s relatives. He gave gifts to Rebekah, her mother, and her brother Laban.

The family of Rebekah did not demand dowry from Abraham’s emissaries. The servants thought it fit or were instructed by Abraham to take along goods to give their prospective in-laws. This might have been divinely inspired or part of the culture at that time. On the second day, Rebekah’s family asked for her consent.

The betrothal was a huge success despite the conspicuous absence of the bridegroom. God was glorified through the arrangement. The parents played significant roles. A time of blessing preceded the departure of Rebekah and her entourage:

“Our sister, may you increase

to thousands upon thousands;

may your offspring possess

the gates of their enemies” (Genesis 24:60, NIV).

The Emergence of Mercenary Chairpersons or Professional Engagement Narrators

A mercenary is someone who is excessively concerned with the desire for personal gain, especially money, or someone hired for money. Mercenary chairpersons are usually recruited for the job of serving as liaisons between the groom’s family and the bride’s family. The “standing chairperson” and her team are recruited to lead the groom’s family to present the dowry to the bride’s family while the “sitting chairperson” leads the group who represent the bride’s family during the engagement ceremony. They can also be described as “professional engagement narrators.” to the passive state or deleted.

The atmosphere of solemnity and sacredness usually seen in worship services or even in real traditional engagements is lacking. Programmes are handled with the principal aim of making money. So, an environment for that is created.

The word of God is relegated to the background. The minister is often called to exhort at the tail end of the programme. He is even timed by the engagement narrator. What an insult!

Marriage and, indeed, engagement ceremony should be seen purely as a covenant relationship between God and the two families and should be celebrated as such. It is the celebration of the “covenant of procreation.” If worship is a response to a relationship, then there is no better place to start exhibiting that marriage relationship than in engagement worship services.

Jesus Christ and His disciples were invited to a wedding ceremony in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-11) and the glory of God was manifested.

Freedom Ceremony

A freedom ceremony is an occasion to mark the end of the apprenticeship. Students who graduate from various formal and informal schools also celebrate their exit from school. King Saul’s attempt to kill David and its aftermath reveals the existence of the company of the prophets (1 Samuel 19:20)with Samuel as their leader.

It “seems that men who desire to be prophets gather together to learn the ways of God and to be trained in divine matters.”Those who gathered in Elijah and Elisha’s days were called sons of the prophet. Apostle Paul trained under Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). Jesus Christ had twelve disciples whom He taught and instructed for about three years.

In all these cases, there was no mention of freedom ceremonies after the end of their courses. This does not in any way suggest or imply that freedom ceremonies are sinful or ungodly. The aim of organising a freedom ceremony is very important and one’s value system goes a long way to reveal the intention of organising it.

The problem that may be posed by the master must be addressed before the day of the ceremony. Things that will not glorify the name of the Lord must have been resolved. It is easier if the master is a Christian. The freedom ceremony is a worship service where the celebrant is committed to the hand of God as he becomes independent of the master of the trade he has learned.

Funeral Ceremony

The idea of celebrating the passing into greater glory at a ripe age has existed for a long time. The idea cuts across religions and tribes. Archaeological findings of the remains of the kings of Egypt reveal assorted things buried with them. These indicate that there must have been some ceremonial rites before the deceased were embalmed. History indicates that ceremonial rites were performed for the departed kings of the Old Oyo Empire of Nigeria.

The Bible records burial preparations and mourning for Jacob: And Joseph commanded his servant the physician to embalm his father, and the physician embalmed Israel. And forty days were fulfilled for him; for so are fulfilled the days of those which are embalmed; And the Egyptians mourned for him three score and ten days (Genesis 50:2-3. KJV).

The survival Instinct in man is one main reason funeral ceremonies are held. It is a blessing for children to bury their parents who die at a very ripe age. To die before one’s parents is seen as a curse. A funeral ceremony for an older person in Nigeria may include a period of mourning. Often celebrated with a lot of fanfare, it attracts and brings together extended families/relatives, friends, colleagues and associates. The final funeral ceremony is often shifted to a future date to prepare adequately for invited and uninvited guests.

Christians should avoid running into debt because of a funeral ceremony. The injunction to do things moderately and for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31)is becoming subjective, however, as many believe that one’s status in society dictates one’s spending during a funeral ceremony. Christians should plan within available resources. Unlike His attendance at the wedding ceremony in Cana of Galilee, Jesus Christ never attended a funeral ceremony.

The raising of Lazarus (John 11) made many believe in Jesus Christ. So also was the resurrection of a widow’s son in Nain an occasion for people to glorify God (Luke 7:11-18). It can be inferred that funeral ceremonies should be targeted towards glorifying God and praising Him for a life well spent. It also should be a service to reach people for Christ and a time to declare our stand for and loyalty to Christ. It is a time to declare that we are disciples of Jesus Christ.

Conclusion

The apostles of old carried their “pulpits” to all nooks and crannies of Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. Philip the deacon turned peripatetic evangelist was astounding as he combed Samaria (Acts 8) like a ravaging fire or a hungry lion looking desperately for converts for his master, Jesus Christ. It is high

time we carry what we believe and confess to the significant occasions of life and start influencing the world around us for Jesus Christ. The observation of rites of passage must be aimed solely at revealing the glory of God.

Rick Warren, in The Purpose-Driven Life (page 53), says the glory of God is who God is, the essence of His nature, the weight of His importance, the radiance of His splendour, the demonstration of His power, the atmosphere of His presence and the expression of His goodness and all His other intrinsic eternal qualities.