… Is traditional wedding complete on its own?
Is a traditionally wedded person supposed to wed in Church before moving in to live as couples? Is traditional marriage as good as the so called Christian marriage? In this article, I would be discussing traditional marriage, Christian marriage, weddings and culture in general.
First of all, what is culture? Is culture divine? Was there any place in the creation story where God established certain culture? I think the answer is an emphatic no! Understanding what culture means will also help us understand what we call traditional marriage and Christian marriage today.
God established marriage in the Garden of Eden but did not declare certain rules on how it should be celebrated. God’s method was simple… He brought Eve to Adam, He served as their father both to Adam and his wife. He personally handed Eve over to Adam who beforehand had accepted that indeed Eve is the flesh of his flesh and the bone of his bone. The Bible said in Genesis 2:22 & 24
“And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man… Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. ”
There was no reception, there was no ring, there was no tying of knot, there was no wine carrying… There was no price Adam needed to pay before having Eve as a wife. The only requirement was to recognize Eve as the same with him and accept her as his wife. Based on Adam’s confession, and God giving her over to him, Eve had become his wife… There was no wedding, there was just marriage.
“And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Genesis 2:23
I would like to clear this confusion first. Marriage is different from wedding… Most times we use the two interchangeably to mean the celebration of the union of a man and a woman. We must understand that God is the author of marriage while man is the author of wedding. As a result, the synopsis of all wedding is human crafted. The suit, gowns, cakes, rings and all that are all human devices which is not wrong but not necessary for marriage to take place. Traditional marriage based on tradition while Christian marriage is a union based on God’s word and the finished work of Christ.
However, man is highly irrational and just like the Israelites who wanted a change from theocracy to monarchy without even considering God’s original design, man has always established their own ways of doing things which is what we know today as traditions and culture.
Talking about the state of man’s heart after the fall, Jeremiah wrote in the 17th chapter of his book at verse 9
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”
He was actually referring to the mind of men and their irrationality. In a bid to handle irrationality of men by men, rules upon rules are being introduced. These rules were also introduced even in wedding ceremonies. God’s definition of marriage is portrayed when a man finds his soul mate and decides to spend the rest of his life with her. In God’s sight, marriage starts when the father hands the couples over to the each other!
Wedding is a party and not the main thing just like birthday party is simply a celebration of what has already happened.
Does that mean God doesn’t have concerns over our own culture? No! God has concerns and even regard our different cultures because He actually handed the earth over to us… He knows the state of man and their irrationality after the fall of man but through the change of heart, He has rescued those who believe in Jesus. He doesn’t dictate what we do here; He even had to set man free from the laws of Moses which happens to be the culture and tradition of Israel in those times. Before the advent of monarchy in Israel, this is what the Bible had to say concerning Israel
“In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” Judges 21:25
You see that? There was no central tradition or culture because man was not their king. God was their king then and he didn’t rule them with the law… He allowed them to do what was right in their own eyes.
God loves us in our diversity but wants us to make Him the centre of everything including our marriage. But because of men’s irrationality, they would always want to establish their own kind of rules and to always deal with irrational behaviors, men take irrational decisions too. God understands and that was why God told Samuel to let the people do what they which. Culture is a generally accepted way of life but doesn’t mean God’s way of life. The Bible puts it this way
“And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.” 1 Samuel 8:7
God has great regard for the voice of the people which is the foundation of culture. Sometimes, He allows them to learn from their wrong decisions.
Having said the above, how does this affect marriage? Does that mean culturally wedded couples can live together without doing what we call “Christian wedding”? Wedding can be done differently by different people… Traditional weddings, Court weddings and Church weddings are all wedding. But it is Church wedding that best define and explain the reason for marriage. Tradition may define marriage as an official enslavement of a woman to go work for the husband. Court may define marriage as a union of a man and a woman who may separate when things go wrong but it is in Church that wedding becomes an intro into the reality of what marriage is all about… For better, for worse.
Marriage is a union; wedding is a celebration and public declaration of that union.
Unlike tradition, Christian marriage is a union based on the words of Christ and not a celebration or wedding done in Church. For instance, most African traditions don’t believe two shall become one, they rather believe the woman shall become a property of the man. It is not traditional marriage because of the traditional wears neither is it Christian marriage because of the gown nor suit. What we call Christian wedding today is actually christened white men’s culture. Wedding gowns has nothing to do with Christianity, the philosophies surrounding the white gown, the black suit, the ring, the flowers, the wedding cakes and all that may be nice and applaud-able but it has nothing to do with Christianity. Marriage can happen without a gown and suit. So, does that mean in Africa, a traditionally wedded couple doesn’t need to wed in Church?
Like I said earlier, culture is a general believe guided by people’s perception and orientation. That is why there are different cultures around different regions. The coming of the white men and indeed the gospel to Africa brought lots of changes and challenges. At a point, the Church has to reach a compromise and the culture also had to reach a compromise. This is evident in burial ceremonies, seasonal festivals and weddings where traditional obligations and religious obligations are fulfilled together.
What happened? The white men who brought us Christianity have actually modified their cultures and traditions to fit into Christianity. When they were introducing Christianity to us, they were also introducing some of their cultures to us because Christianity had become part of their culture. African traditions had its ups and downs, part of those culture were meant to be an act of worship to idols, part of them were meant to make people law abiding, part of them were meant to bring orderliness and so on. Killing of twins for instance was an act of worship to idols while ‘palm-wine carrying’ was meant to symbolize a woman who has found her husband and accepted his proposals. On one hand, the cultures had good sides and on the other hand the culture and traditions of Africans was grounded on idol worship. To clean up some of this mess, the white men and new converts had to replace some certain culture just like the celebrating of the birthday of an idol on 25th December was replaced with the celebration of the birth of Jesus.
The Church as an organization has its own traditions and cultures. The Church is bigger than our ethnic divide; the Church is what unites believers as one. For instance, an Asian Christian is the same with an American Christian by the reason of the oneness we have in Christ.
Like we noted earlier, culture is a generally accepted way of life and not necessarily a divinely endorsed way of life. These generally accepted ways of life may be agreed upon with focus on Christ while non-believers would have their own ways of life based on what they believe. For instance, in Arab nations, their traditions are grounded in Quran. Abraham used to belong to an idol worshipping family but when he encountered God; the tradition of his own family was different because of faith in God.
Many Africans saw Christianity as a threat to their own culture and tradition which to them is a heritage they will never do away with. In a bid to project Christianity as something very beneficial to the African culture, the missionary had to compromise to some point… Not actually a compromise of faith in God but a compromise of their own cultures. For instance, some church music was blended into the African style, the style didn’t change what it was about and it was still about Jesus.
What has that got to do with weddings? Couples become married the moment the father officially hands the woman over to the man just as God handed Eve over to Adam. Wedding isn’t marriage… Since Christianity has taken over, some things can’t be the same again. The Church is a family with the Pastor is representing the shepherd and indeed the father of the family. The African culture has been blended into Christianity for Christians. The process to getting married now includes being handed over by our earthly father (to fulfill righteousness) and our Pastor who represents our Father in the Church.
Since the Church is a family, members of that family have to follow the traditions of the Church even as they follow the traditions of their family. This is where a compromise was reached in many parts of Africa. The Church has become our spiritual home and whatever we do in our spiritual homes has to be reflected in our physical homes. After all, Christians are meant to settle their issues in Church rather than outside the Church.
In summary, if you are a Christian, it is not ideal to move in with your spouse after traditional wedding because your spiritual home have not endorsed and blessed the union. If you have moved in with your spouse, don’t panic and don’t feel condemned, seek for blessing of marriage in your local Church.
Feel free to say your mind on the comment box.