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Should Christians do Traditional Marriage Counselling?

Should Christian Zambian women take part in cultural or traditional marriage counselling? Pastor Conrad turns to the Bible – the book of Ruth and 1 Corinthians – to explore whether Christians should engage in cultural traditions such as these – and where we need to draw the line.

Bible Characters engage in Cultural Traditions

“Should Christian women undergo cultural or traditional marriage counselling? The question is, what does Scripture say? And I think it’s important for us to realise that not everything that is in culture is necessarily wrong. Though there are some things that are obviously, patently, wrong. And I want us to quickly peep at the book of Ruth and see a cultural example that is needed to be applied.
“It’s important for us to realise that not everything that is in culture is necessarily wrong.”

Lessons from the Book of Ruth

I am sure you are familiar with the book of Ruth. Basically Ruth was a Gentile who had been brought into Israel life by her mother-in-law, Naomi. Ruth And now she was concerned that she would get re-married within Israel. And somehow or other she ended up with Boaz. So Boaz was going to marry her, but he raised a point of order. And that’s where I want to start in Ruth chapter 3 and verse 10. This is what Boaz said to Ruth. “May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman.” (Ruth 3:10-11)

Take off Your Sandal?

And here’s the point. “And now it is true that I am a redeemer yet there is a redeemer nearer than I.” Now that phrase “there is a redeemer nearer than I”  in other words there’s somebody who has the first right to marry you before me. Later on, in chapter 4 Boaz goes to this same man. and this is what he says. I begin from chapter 4 and verse 5. “Then Boaz said, “The day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead, in order to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance. Then the redeemer said, ‘I cannot redeem it for myself lest I impair my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.’ (Ruth 4:5-6) Now listen to verse 7. “Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, the one drew off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was the manner of attesting in Israel.” (Ruth 4:7) I will stop there for a moment.

Being a Zambian Christian

What we learn is that there was a culture that was part of the life of Israel. It wasn’t commanded by God, you can read your Bible if you want. But clearly, it was the way in which there was order in society in Israel. Especially with respect to issues of marriage, death, widows, children, etc, etc. And you needed to be taught those things as you lived in the context of Israel.
“We have a way in which we have order in our society… It’s important for you to learn that because you are a Christian who is in Africa. You are a Zambian Christian.”
It is the same with us in any culture, even in our culture as Africans, as Zambians. We have a way in which we have order in our society with respect to, how to marry, how to live together as husband and wife etc, etc. It’s important for you to learn that because you are a Christian who is in Africa. You are a Zambian Christian, you have relatives among whom you live.

Biblical Caution for the African Christian

There is one caveat, however, and it is if what you are being taught is something that goes against your God, against Scripture. If that is something that is being taught to you. In other words, it’s demonic. It is satanic. Then clearly you have to say “Sorry. I’m a Christian, I cannot do that.”
“If what you are being taught is something that goes against your God, against Scripture… Then clearly you have to say “Sorry. I’m a Christian, I cannot do that.”
And that’s what we find in 1 Corinthians and chapter 8. In 1 Corinthians chapter 8 the Apostle Paul says “all food is clean” (1 Corinthians 8:1-8) and therefore if you go to a place and you’re offered it, take it! Because all food is clean. But it goes on to say in verse 9, “But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died.“ (1 Corinthians 8:9)

The Christian Response to Witchcraft

In other words, for you it was nothing, but for a person who knew what lay behind it, they stumbled. You caused them to fall. So just be careful, listen out, if they are things that have to do with witchcraft, and so on, then excuse yourself because you are a Christian.
“So, should you undergo, as a woman traditional marriage counselling? Yes, to help you live in your culture.”
So, should you undergo, as a woman, traditional marriage counselling? Yes, to help you live in your culture. But if there is something satanic, demonic, witchcraft… say “No, I’m a Christian.” Well, that’s what the scriptures say. If you’ve got any other questions, feel free to get in touch. We’ll do our best to answer.
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