SHOULD A CHRISTIAN WOMAN MARRY A MUSLIM MAN?
The growing tendency of overzealous bigots within the Christian community, especially in Nigeria, and their character of stigmatising and excluding other people who, in their own opinion, do not meet their moral standard nor share or adhere to their traditionally held dogmas and stereotyped body of beliefs, drives the need for this “shout out”. This “shout out” is also in alliance with the admonition of the Catholic Pontiff, Pope Francis, at the recently concluded Synod at the Vatican.
He admonished Christians to be all inclusive and to “open the doors of the church” to all manner of people, including homosexuals. It is significant to note that it was God’s intention to gather humanity together on this earth as he did with the “body of waters”; endowed them with divine freewill, and made them intellectually superior to other creations. Nevertheless, even animals do not involve in “same sex”, and like President Bob Mugabe said in India a few days back, even Satan chose to visit Eve and not Adam. God’s expectation was for humans to “live” on earth and to “work” the earth together as a community of people mandated to supervise and order natural life and all earthly endeavours.
According to Lucky Dube, the late South African reggae maestro, God “made man in his image”, but he did not label them “black or white”. He went on to conclude that though we are of “different colours”, we are all “one people”. It is important to know that the differences in humans are observed only in their external and visible features: in the colour and texture of their skins, their hair, their eyes and other external characteristics of the human body and their individual self developments. Life itself does not in anyway depend on any of these external visible features, they only serve to define God’s character as a creator-lover of transcendental varieties and to show his interest in our earthly comfort and pleasures.
In comparison to this, the internal and invisible features of the human body: the blood cycle, cells, tissues, organs and other internal live-sustaining features of the human body; features upon which existential life depends, are the same in colour, texture and dimension in every human being. This indicates that for humans, what matters more to God about humanity are his internal features than his external. At least this is supported by various scriptural passages.
The elementary lesson God desires us to intellectually discern in this human design is that the features that sustain human life are internal, invisible and similar in all human beings. The earnest of this demonstration identifies the human features which only enhances the pleasures and comfort of life as what differentiates humans from one another. It is therefore pertinent to understand the relevance of this divine lesson, from where Dr Martin Luther King Jnr drew his inspiration to sound-out his evergreen exposition that a man should be judged based on the “content of his character” than on the “colour of his skin”. This article is therefore targeted at encouraging every human soul on earth to join in singing Lucky Dube’s evergreen song “Different Colours, One People”.
Answering the question under subject as plainly as possible is necessary to douse the instigation of any kind of sentiment that can rob us of the knowledge embedded in this response. Truth, the sole embodiment of God’s word, guides every God-believer in all his ways: “God knows is own people”. Therefore we must first and foremost find acceptance and understanding that the work of scripture in our lives supersedes the common doctrines formulated for us by the heads of Churches, and by which they instruct us to live as believers. God guides us by the scripture, to understand the persuasive knowledge he affords in his word, to enable us embrace and embody his truth. This is known as the “work of the Holy Spirit”. The “formulation of doctrines”, although drawn from scripture, is the responsibility of Church leaders. This is the understanding I crave that we should all attain in this matter: that God’s truth is superior and supersedes all doctrines formulated to guide Church administrations.
The question in context is a very complex and challenging one, and can be quite delicate and confusing if not handled according to knowledge and truth, bringing every understanding targeted at increasing the God-believer in the context of this presentation; especially in the present worldview, where religious fundamentalism, and hateful bloodshed has taken over the liberal consideration of the collective privilege of habiting together to enhance communality and brotherhood. Primarily, we must appreciate the fact that apart from our skin colours, and in some cases which unfortunately differentiates us, God made us one people, one blood, with the same features, faculties and abilities – for ourselves and for our service to all humanity.
In regards to inter-religious marriage; even amongst Christians who share one scripture, one communion, one Lord, one baptism and are called into the one household of God, we altogether still find this kind of complex Christian doctrinal considerations at play. Christians of different persuasions would quickly ask why a “Catholic-woman” should marry the “Pentecostal-man”. Coming again to Christians who are entirely of the same persuasions and lining, the question shifts to why a woman-member of the Deeper Christian Life Church should marry a man-member of the Celestial Church of Christ. So we find that this dilemma in marital consideration of partners is fuelled by the proliferation of Christian doctrines and the establishment of specialized congregations; and has nothing to do with God’s truth. The same stigma a Muslim suffers is the same stigma meted out to Christians of different persuasions. So it is not about or after nomenclatures but about the exclusive nature of those who stigmatize others based on their partial understanding of truth.
The proliferation of doctrines and the establishment of congregations
The differences in doctrines amongst Churches has been from the very beginning of the institution of the “earthly Church”. A dispute of this type was addressed to the first “Christian Council” on earth at Jerusalem, on whether a “believer-Gentile” (non Jews) should be compelled into circumcision according to the Laws of Moses, in order to qualify for the “Christian salvation” (Acts 15: 1-21). It can also be verified in Galatians 2:1-10 that this issue led to the leaders of the Church on earth agreeing to divide the one Church of Jesus Christ into the “Church of the Circumcised” and the “Church of the Uncircumcised”. This was how the difference in the formation of christian doctrines led to the division of the first Church on earth under one leadership; establishing two congregations against the instruction and prayer of Jesus that we should be one as in the Godhead. Apostle Paul making this very clear said in Galatians 2: 9-10 “and when James, Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship; that we should go unto the Gentiles, and they unto the (Jews) circumcised.”
So doctrinal differences has been with the Church from the very beginning; and considering the question in this discussion, the marital question in perspective presses more on the Christian-woman than on the Muslim-man to distinguish who they should or should not accept in marriage. But the question is: How was this issue divinely arraigned from the beginning of creation? Nevertheless, Apostle Paul made a brilliant submission in his effort at placing scripture, from where doctrines are formulated, in the right perspective as he did in the doctrine that caused the division in the first earthly Church:
Galatians 2: 21 says “I do not nullify the grace of God: for if righteousness comes by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”
Now let us consider if the scriptural passage drawn by Church leaders to limit the marital choice of partners by a Christian sounds as a law in itself or not: “Be you not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? And what partnership has light with darkness? (II Corinthians 6:14). Laws are ordered to regulate community conducts, and they usually start with “Do not”. So in all honesty, the passage under reference is a law given to guide Christian conduct in the community in which he lives. We will come back to this in due course.
In the beginning:
It is an uncontestable fact that when God created the man, although he gave him a law restricting his access to “the tree of knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:17); this law was to ensure that the man, who was created as a continuous learning creature, with the ability for growth and maturity, was designed to initially handle authorities delegated to him. His choices were therefore regulated until he could qualify to eat of the “forbidden tree” and take personal and responsible decisions.
Every household operate laws for growing and grown children: in a household, there are growing children and there are grown up children. The manner of their liberties at home differ; this is not minding the fact that Adam was not created as a baby but as a man as we believe. Adam had to learn living life from the stage of handling only the responsibilities he was given. He was not permitted to initiate independent decisions just like a child living under parenting. His flouting this divine programming led to his unfortunate fall from divine innocence – the very reason for our reversed humanity.
In the same way we train our growing children with instructions; and setting them free of these instructions when they are grown, so was God dealing with Adam at this point before his fall. But the point we should take down is that in the beginning man did not have any religion God gave him to follow, because there has never been any need for one. It is also clear that the marriage institution predated the institutions of religion on earth, because until the Law of Moses was given and it brought Judaism, even the Patriarchs lived according to their faith in God, as Adam did. We are expected to so live in this dispensation: living in, and by the grace of God, which we obtained through faith in Christ. We must be careful therefore not to nullify the grace of God in our lives.
In the beginning, the process of marriage included the man waking up from a “deep sleep” to “find” his wife; his wife being the product of his own “bone”. Nothing should offset this fact: that a wife is the product of her husband’s “bone”; and that the man must “wake up” to “find” his wife. A wife cannot be any woman. In this life there will always be a wife and the “other woman” also. It is therefore possible to mistake the “other woman” for a wife if the process of the man “waking up” to “find” his wife is ignored in the course of an impending matrimony. This is normally the cause of the strangeness and impossibilities in some marital relationships.
We will easily agree that religion, which we only practice here on earth, is transient. There are instances where two pastors of one Church, who are husband and wife, accept to be separated or divorced, while some interreligious matrimony, in which one or none amongst the partners is a Christian, ensure a workable marital union. There are many practical instances to these. How can we then explain this? It means something is wrong with the knowledge we have accepted and have used to exclude ourselves and others. It must be clear to us how we are the first victims of any negative and bad impact we impress on humanity and also how we are the first beneficiaries of all positive and good impact we impress.
It is therefore impressive to understand that until you find the bone of your bone and the flesh of your flesh (Genesis 2: 22-24), a man cannot say he has found his wife. Even scripture agrees that a man has to find his wife as ordained from the beginning as given in Proverbs 18:22 – “whosoever finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favour of the LORD”. It is therefore a doctrinal addition to scripture when we label it “Christian husband”, “Christian wife” and “Christian marriage”. A wife is a wife, a husband is a husband, and marriage is marriage.
Many atimes, the attachments we put to the facts of faith evolve the traditions that weighs and waters down our belief system, thereby excluding many who share the same universe with us, yet we are under the obligation to love all men with the love of God and to endeavour to bring them to the knowledge of God and his Christ. If a Holy God, who cannot behold sin, can embrace a sinful race and conceded to a personal sacrifice to save the race, then we have a lesson from God to sympathize with ignorant men and women than to exclude them from the possibility of attaining knowledge and regeneration. We do play God and relegate him in our convictions. Jesus was a victim of this misfortune and he confessed this in Luke 7:34: “The son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publican and sinners!”
The search for knowledge as the primary obligation of a believer
The attempt here is to deviate a little from the conventional teachings we are used to; and maybe we can learn to appreciate that the earth is full of the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9). We cannot afford to limit our search for knowledge to what others tell us. Knowledge is the arm that draws the understanding hidden in the wisdom of God. Searching for knowledge is therefore our personal responsibility, the giving of understanding is the responsibility of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit attends to us only when our search efforts meet the required supply-mark for his impartation of divine understanding.
The wisdom of God is the summation of our destinies in all creative tendencies, which we must uncover, as in possessing the keys of the kingdom of God and his unsearchable riches, by the understanding we reach in our search for knowledge; and this includes the knowledge of the marriage institution. Understanding unfolds the unlimited measure of our successes and provisions in the Christ-life we live, such that we lack nothing that pertains to the wisdom of God. We may never get there if “children” await others to “justify” the wisdom of God for them (Luke 7:35). The justification of the wisdom of God is a personal spiritual attainment; you get it for yourself because no man has the competence to give it to you. We must bear personal witness to the wisdom of God in our earthly lives as the result of our communion with him in the Spirit.
The mystery of the wisdom of God:
If it is a fact that the eagles are gathered wheresoever the carcass is (Matthew 24:28) and wisdom must be justified of her children, then indeed, it will only be unto the Lord should the gathering of the “(one) people” be (Genesis 49:10).
What does this mean?
This is the understanding: that scripture is the body – the carcass and the communion – the meal Jesus left of himself for us, and until we gather unto the scripture, where the true communion of the flesh and blood of Jesus is served universally by the Holy Ghost, believers may never be able to personally justify the wisdom of God to test every doctrine instituted by those who lead us in our “Churches” (II Timothy 4:3). This was the situation with the first Church: Apostle Paul had a kind of knowledge that the Church leadership could not comprehend so well, though his works testified to this convincingly before them (Galatians 2:11-14).
It means a believer should not be content with sitting under the “anointing” of other men, but to strive to personally experience the jumping out of scriptures as living “flesh” imparting and impacting the spirit, and sustaining the God-life in him. We should not shut out the world in the same way the Jews got the oracle of God to be a blessing to the world and shut the world out by encumbering God’s blessings with the traditions their leadership introduced to the laws of God; refusing to follow after the knowledge of God, which was freely given to them (Romans 10:1-4). However, scripture makes it clear to us that it was for our sake that they were ignorant of the knowledge of God through their own kind of knowledge (Romans 11:11).
The understanding of 2 Corinthians 6:14:
This passage of scripture has to come in now because it is practically the major passage drawn in Christian congregations in the formulation of the doctrine that seem to guide the peculiar nature of how a Christian should live in his/her community, bearing in mind that evil association, partnership, communication corrupts good manners; and it is admonished that an unruly fellow should not be tolerated in the gathering of brethren. We must therefore distinguished between the fellow that is already admitted in the gathering of brethren and one who is yet to be admitted in “that “gathering”.
In order not to over flog this issue, permit the reiteration of this position by illustrating what Apostle Paul meant in that passage by drawing our attention to Galatian 2:11-16. This passage clearly shows the direction of Paul instruction when he related darkness to light, the believer to the unbeliever and righteousness to unrighteousness in 2 Corinthians 6:14. He addressed a “Church leader” who was behaving like an ignorant man in Galatia – a man who clearly showed how unproductive his knowledge of scripture was. Again, if the scriptural instruction says “be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers…”, simple and complex English translates that to mean “be equally yoked together with unbelievers…” It means we should share the burdens they bear. The Parable of the Good Samaritan testifies wholly to this fact: the Priest and Levite in that parable who walked past a dying man by the riadside to satisfy Jewish liturgies demonstrated darkness over light, unbelieving over believing and unrighteousness over unrighteousness as Apostle Peter did in Galatia. If Jesus were like these people, he would not have touched lepers to heal them when he should be avoiding them as they approached him, as the Jewish laws stipulated.
Apostle Peter was on pastoral visit to the Church in Galatia and he voluntarily ate together with the Gentiles there before the visit of his compatriots from Jerusalem, but avoided them when others from Jerusalem joined them in Galatia, forgetting that he was the first missioner God sent to the Gentiles. He ate, lived, slept with them and even defended his action before the Jerusalem congregation when he was questioned (Acts 10:1-48, 11:1-18). So in transliterating 2 Corinthians 6:14 it says “be equally yoked together with unbelievers…” The instruction in the passage in reference is targeted at pretentious “believers” behaving as “unbelievers” than at unbelievers who have not yet and as much attained the privilege of accessing knowledge of Christ.
It must be understood therefore that the very reason why we go to Church is so that we can be witnesses of Christ through our lives (as of how we live), works (as of what we do) and our words (as of what we say). It should be noted that apart from our professions (as of what we say), we also silently communicate who we are to members of our community by how we live and what we do. Just as we cannot mock God, we also cannot mock the people we live and work with. Therefore it must be clear to all of us that the passage of 2 Corinthians 6:14 is not altogether referring to people of other religions, but to those who share our own common faith but who do not follow after the knowledge of God.
Should a Christian woman marry a Muslim man?
Before we go further on the particulars of this question, we must be fair to the Muslims by first asking if Christians usually differentiate between themselves as they differentiate between the Muslims when it comes to who to marry. Do Christians distinguish between themselves on who to marry, strictly based on the condition of which Church each of the proposing partners attends? The answer is a capital yes! They do. I therefore submit that this is not about nomenclature, for in my opinion the Christian who is in Church and cannot follow after the knowledge of God is worse than a Muslim whose only shortcoming is his ignorance of the scripture, but who lives honourably in his community. The wolf in sheep clothing living in the sheepfold with the sheep is far more dangerous than the wolf outside the sheepfold.
The pretentious Christian is a wolf amongst the sheep, and can devour the sheep in quietude without the shepherd knowing, especially as in the case where such wolf live as sheep within the sheepfold. It must be clear that an ignorant man can live a more admirable life than a pretentious man. So it is spiritual marginalization if we permit a pretentious brother to marry a sister and resist a Muslim from marrying the same sister. To buttress this point, I also ask, are we as believers under any obligation to evangelize the Muslims, considering the last sentence Jesus made on earth before being taken up into the clouds?
Acts 1:8 “But you shall receive power, after the Holy Spirit has come upon you: and you shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the world.”
To exclude the Muslim in any form is therefore like repeating the sad avoidance of an innocent dying man by those who profess to know God because they fear to contaminate their holiness by stooping to help the dying man, until a seeming “ignorant man” came along to help him as depicted in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Verses 36-37 summarize our responsibility: “which now of these three (the Priest, the Levite and the Samaritan), think you; was (the) neighbour unto him (the dying man) that fell among the thieves? And he who raised the question answered “he that showed mercy on him”. Then Jesus said, “go, and do likewise (as the seeming ignorant man did)”. Jesus instructed this Jew to do as the “unbeliever” Samaritan, and not as his “religious leaders” did. This means that even those we abhor have spiritual lessons they teach us if we are conscientious of our desire for knowledge. We are not called as Christians to observe liturgies formulated by men, but to cultivate our communities for Christ by our neighbourliness and our demonstration of justice, mercy and faith, which are heavier matters of the law (Matthew 23:23). In fact Jesus called those who observe liturgies to the abandonment of mercy, hypocrites!
Who therefore should a Christian woman marry?
First of all we must recognize that marriage adds nothing to our Christian race, and if we must marry, we also must be careful about the cares therein. Responding to a question by some Pharisees who tried to test him, asking if “it was lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause” (Matthew 19:3), Jesus volunteered the true situation of the man in marriage to them. At the end of his answering this query, his disciples in Matthew 19:10 said “…if the case of a man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.” Apostle Paul again reiterated this fact when in I Corinthians 7:1, 8 he suggested that “…it is good for a man not to touch a woman”. However the passage does not mean that it is good for a husband not to touch his wife. The admonition is for them who are single. We ought also to remember that a man must wake up to find his wife, who apparently is his “flesh and bone” – one you must treat as a part of your own body. This means that partners in marriage were already paired, if you like, bound before their earthly existence. Nevertheless, as it pertain the kingdom of God, Jesus himself revealed how it is “given” for a man to voluntarily accept to be a eunuch for the sake of the kingdom of God if he can “receive” it (Matthew 19:12).
Now coming to the question under this subject, I Corinthians 7:12-14 says and I transliterate “But to the rest I speak, not the Lord: if any brother has a wife that believes not, and she (the unbelieving wife) is pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman who has a husband that believes not, and if he (the unbelieving husband) is pleased to live with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the (believing) wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the (believing) husband”.
It is therefore clear that marriage is for the pleasure of the partners, so that the believer should not be led into sin because of his passion. From the above passage, it is also clear that in the instance that a believer-man wakes up to find his wife and she is an unbeliever, it is entirely the choice of the unbeliever-partner, not the believer, to choose whether or not he is pleased to live with her; and so for the believer-woman.
Finally and so far as we have discussed and in response to the question: “should a Christian woman marry a Muslim man?” The answer is: it is not in the position of the Christian woman to decide whether or not she should marry the Muslim man that “finds” her as his “wife”. This is the scriptural point of view: A man surely must “wake up” to “find” his wife, who is his flesh and bones; and it is up to him to be pleased to live with her if he is an unbeliever. So also is the believer-man who wakes up to finds his wife, though she is an unbeliever, is not required to reject her if she finds the pleasure to live with him. Nevertheless, 1 Corinthians 7:27 say “are you bound unto a wife? (Being your flesh and bones that you have found?), seek not to be loose (from her). Are you loose from a wife? (Whom you woke up to find?), seek not a wife. This is because seeking another wife will be searching for “the other woman” (I Corinthians 7:10).
If we all believe that marriages are made in heaven, then we are under obligation to appreciate the fact that God knows the end from the beginning, and his wisdom is unsearchable: his wisdom is freely given. Until we seek, we wont find; until we ask, we cannot receive, and until we knock, it cannot be opened unto us.