Scriptural Marriage, Traditional Customs and Civil Laws – 2
By Sunday Ayandare
This is the second part of the series on Marriage, Traditional customs and Civil laws. In the first part (we encourage the reader to read the first part before continuing with this), we discussed what scriptural marriage is. We also highlighted the fact that marriage is a covenant with all its components.
The terms of agreement of marriage are stated by God Himself Who designed it: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). That it was God who made this proclamation is evidenced by our Lord Jesus in Matt. 19:4-5. According to the Designer of marriage, the two parties involved are the man and his wife.
Leave – The agreement between the two is: to leave father and mother. L. A. Stauffer states this so beautifully: “Leaving one’s original family is a decisive action… Jesus used an intensive form of the word “leave.” The word (kataleipo) means “to forsake completely,” or “to abandon.” Abandonment of father and mother in no way annuls the responsibility to honor one’s parents, but does underscore the need to renounce totally the rule and place of subjection once occupied in that family. A definite and final break is to be made between the new family and the two families from which the couple came. Fathers and mothers must not be permitted to interfere, regulate, dominate or control the marriages of their children.”3 This is rule number one.
Cleave – A male and female must cleave to
one another. The idea here is “to glue or weld together” and this emphasizes the marriage vow or promise. This implies acceptance of the oneness in marriage and a commitment to that union. This is rule number two in the marriage covenant.
Unite in One Flesh– The final action of marriage, “they shall be one flesh.” L. A. Stauffer notes: “the uniting of the two bodies as ‘one flesh’ is a fitting expression of the intimacy, boundless sharing, and total merging that marriage demands of a male and a female.” This is the point where marriage covenant is ratified. That is the seal of ratification.
Another point that calls for emphasis here is the fact that it is God Himself, the Author of marriage, that does the joining of a male and a female together. When parents or the officers of the State, or preachers or Chairmen of marriage ceremonies (or marriage receptions) proclaim that newly wedded couples are joined together, it should be understood that that joining at that level is merely ceremonial. The true, real, and authentic joining together is done by God when all of the commitments of marriage are fulfilled. “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder (Matt. 19:6).
This is marriage according to the will of God. Every traditional custom of man or civil law is subordinate to this divine law.
Applying the Principles
When a man who has the God-given right to marry hooks a woman who equally has the right to marry, God joins them together in holy wedlock. It does not matter whether one is a believer and the other is an infidel (1 Cor. 7:12-16). The marriage is right and Scriptural. The practice of some local churches withdrawing fellowship from their members for contracting marriages with non-believers is, by its very nature, anti-scriptural. The absurdity of the practice should be very obvious even to the obtuse. Sin demands repentance (Acts 17:30). Repentance on the other hand calls for cessation of sin (Matt. 3:8; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Acts 14:15). Now, if it is outright sinful for a Christian to marry a non-Christian, doesn’t the repentance of that “sin” call for the sending away of the non-believing spouse? Then, in that case, one would be doing the very thing the Lord has condemned – causing the wife (or the husband) who is a non-believer to commit adultery. “But I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife saving for the cause of fornication causeth her to commit adultery…” (Matt. 5:32). Could language be plainer?
But then a caveat! This is not said to encourage Christians to marry non-believers. It is a blatant demonstration of bad attitude and poor judgment for a child of God to even contemplate marrying a child of the devil – for that is what a non-believer is (1 Jn. 3:8). It is when a person is converted that he is translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Col. 1:12-13).
Moreover, it has been said over and over again that a marriage will be more harmonious and peaceful if the man and the woman making up the home are equals. That is, if they are suited to each other socially, culturally and more importantly, spiritually. In this way, they share the goals of life, aspirations, joys and sorrows together; and work together to build an atmosphere in which they rear their children and fight the storms of life together. To the extent that they are not united, the home is threatened. The Lord says, “… if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand” (Mk.3:25).
If in the process of marriage idolatry, drunkenness and other sins are committed, it is these sins that should be rebuked and repented of (1 Cor. 10:14; 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21). Idolatry or drunkenness does not, and would not, invalidate the marriage. The marriage itself is holy and sacrosanct if the persons involved are eligible to marry.
Some traditional customs would not recognize a marriage even after that marriage has produced “a football team” of children. A scenario is this: A man decided to marry. He approached his proposed in-laws for the hands of their daughter in marriage. He was presented with a list of requirements including dowry and or, bride-price. He pleaded with his in-laws (to-be) to release his proposed wife to him with a promise to come back later to settle those requirements. The in-laws acquiesced and blessed the young man together with the young lady and thus another family was established. After nine months, children started to arrive and with this development came additional responsibilities. This was a man who did not “have much of this world’s goods,” including education and exposure; about the only possession he thought he had was his wife; who doubled as his “only” consolation and the only form of recreation he knew was mating and mating! (Sex is a God-given right and it’s beautiful within the framework of lawful marriage – 1 Cor. 7:2-5). As it should be expected in a man with this mind set, this translated to more and more children until he “hath his quiver full of them!” Coping with the problems of life and living became the major preoccupation of our man so much so that he became totally oblivious of the promise he made to his in-laws at the point of his marriage. Then, the eldest of the children his own marriage had produced was ready to introduce a man who had proposed marriage to her. It was at this stage that our man remembered that his wife and his children were not yet his own on the ground that he had not paid the dowry or bride-price on his wife!!!
If the woman that has produced these children is not this man’s wife, then, certain questions are crying for answers and the most fundamental of these is: is this man married to this woman? If they were not married, then, what have they been doing all along by living together and producing children? If they were not married, then, they have been living in fornication and all the children produced by the union were born in fornication and out wedlock(Col. 3:5-7). What if one or both of them had died in that condition? That one or both of them would have gone to hell fire for having lived and died in fornication! (Gal. 5:19-21; 1 Cor. 6:9-1.1). On the other hand, if in the sight of God they were married, having fulfilled all the commitments of marriage according to the will of God, then, by what reasoning would they be considered as not being husband and wife? That would be nothing but according to a traditional custom of man! The word of Christ is ringing and ringing loudly: “Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandments of God, ye hold the tradition of men… Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition… Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered, and many such like things do
ye” (Mark 7:6-13).
But then a word of advice (if not of caution): As a child of God, you may buy your food or cloth or car on credit. You may buy concrete blocks for the building of your house on credit. But do not marry your wife on credit! Try as much as possible to fulfil all the legitimate obligations demanded by the culture under which you live in order to win approval and recognition for your marriage. “Whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Give none offence neither to the Jews nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God. Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved”(l Cor. 10:31-33). That way, you will have clarity of conscience as you “drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well … Let thy fountain be blessed and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love” (Pro. 5:15-19).
In this connection, there is a word or two for our Christian-parents too: if you have to come up with a list of requirements and charge bride-price at all, let the list be as short and the dowry be as reasonable as would be affordable for your proposed son-in-law. In this way, you will be putting a small nail on the head of the general prevalence of promiscuity among our youths. Let us always remember that there is nothing we have that we have not received (1 Cor. 4:7). In any case, “children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psa. 127:3; Josh. 24:3). We as parents are merely stewards of God in this regard (Gen. 48:9); and faithfulness is required of stewards (1 Cor. 4:2).
Civil law (or marriage registry) may join together people that are not eligible for marriage in the sight of God. To that extent, that arrangement is adulterous (Matt. 5:32; 19:9). Moreover, a judge in a court of law may proclaim “divorce” because, as judges are wont to say, “the marriage is irretrievably broken.” The Word of God says, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matt. 19:6). No man, no judge, no father, no mother, no father-in-law or mother-in-law has the right to put asunder a man and a woman that God Almighty has joined together!
What about parental consent in marriage? It goes without saying that a young man and a young woman who are marrying themselves are products of two homes; or better still, a son and a daughter of some parents. Moreover, in any culture, taking and giving in marriage of one’s son or daughter are some of the joys and honour anybody can enjoy in this life (cf. Matt. 22:1-14; 24:38). Ordinarily, why would any young man or woman ever contemplate robbing his(her) parents of this joy and honour? We should all remember that the young man or woman of today is the father or mother of tomorrow! Surely, no one would be happy to be at the receiving end of this type of outlandish behaviour. The golden rule states: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would thaft men should do to you, do ye even so to them, for this is the law and the prophets” (Matt. 7:12). Besides, one of the eternal decrees of God is:”… whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall reap life everlasting” (Gal. 6:7-8).
But this writer is aware of a situation where a young man got married without even notifying his father, talk less of seeking his consent. When questioned, his answer was that his father did him much evil by his “refusal” to finance his university education, even though he (the father) had the means. Surely, this young man, like the rest of us, should realize that in spite of what our parents did or didn’t do, they are the vehicles through which we came into this world (1 Tim. 5:4). We may become whatever in life, they begat us. Certainly, we camebefore we become! The Bible speaks of “a generation that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother” (Pro. 30:11; cf. 2 Tim. 3:1-5). Moreover, our young men in this particular instance needs a tutorial on vengeance; that it truly belongs to God and not to us (Rom. 12:19).
Having said all this, what about the marriage that was contracted without the consent of this man’s father? The marriage is right and sacrosanct if each of the two parties has the divine right to marry! In this writer’s home, for instance, it is a settled matter. That “baddy” and “Mummy” will not give their consent to any marriage arrangement involving any of their children AND a non-believer. God forbid that any of these children should get involved with a non-believer as wife or husband. But just in case, will the withholding of the consent of “Daddy” and” Mummy” invalidate any marriage? No! If the young man and the young lady have the right to marry and each of them agree to leave their father and mother, cleave unto themselves and unite their bodies as one, God will join them together. The marriage will be right in the sight of God even though “Daddy” and “Mummy” don’t consent to it!
But again, ordinarily, why would anyone not respect the will or wishes of his parents? Why would anyone – and a Christian for that matter – minimize the need for seeking and having the consent of his parents in this all-important matter? In any case, it is our considered view that if parents have been what they ought to be, living by righteous and godly principles, they will build homes where the will of God will be respected and obeyed. In homes where the will of God is taught and respected, homes where the children are brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, marriage without the consent of parents would be a taboo! (Pro. 22:6; Eph. 6:1-3).
God, give us Christian homes!
Homes where the Bible is loved and taught,
Homes where the Master’s will is sought,
Homes crowned with beauty Thy love hath wrought;
God, give us Christian homes! Amen and Amen.