What happens in marriages today call for more counseling on this aspect of new marriage relationships. Many do not understand the principle of man and his wife, this includes newlyweds.
Some issues in marriage are avoidable if this principle is well practiced as ordained by God.
At the core of all family relationships is the union between a man and his wife. The foundational text for the entire Christian philosophy of marriage and the family is Genesis 2:24 ‘ for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh’.
This verse makes it clear that marriage requires leaving one’s parent in order to create a new family. It is fine for a man to live with his parents as long as he is single. But when the time comes, he must separate from them and enter into a new relationship with his wife. Doing this requires autonomy, working at a relationship, full responsibility and maturity.
The new husband and wife must then become one flesh. They are no longer two individuals, existing side by side, but must become one entity, sharing each other’s lives. This new types of union is very different and very much stronger than that of parents and children. It requires the work of God himself, so that in speaking of this text in Genesis, Jesus says , “therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” Mathew 19:6.
The Apostle Paul’s words on the interaction between husband and wife, Ephesians 5:22-33 must be interpreted from the perspective of forming a single entity so must be relationship between parents and children. As the fruit of this new union the children belong as much to the woman as to the man. Both parents share equal responsibility for training them (proverb 6:20). Given that God is at the core of their union, the parents must train their children on how to leave on earth, and also show them the way to heaven (Deut.6:6-7).
Traditional African ideas do not agree with this biblical concept of the relationship between a man, his wife and their children at times, infract, they make a true union almost impossible. For example, in many African cultures, the man does not leave his father and mother. He does not leave them spiritually and, sometimes, not even physically.
The husband and his wife are perceived as member of two distinct families, with each family retaining all its right on their own children. The parents of the woman can reclaim her at any time if they think that their son in-law has behaved badly. In such a situation, the woman feels obliged to listen to her parents rather than to stay with her husband. In such a culture, there can be no spiritual unity either, for whenever sacrifices are made to ask protection for the family, the married woman will have to sacrifice to the spirits considered part of her family of origin, and he.’ husband will sacrifice to his family’s spirits. In relation to the spirit world, each one is always a member of his or her family.
This way of thinking means that the wife is forever a stranger in her husband’s home. Among the Senoufo of Cote d’lvoire, for example, as quoted by Soro Soungalo, the wife is called ‘the foreigner’ by ‘her husband’s parents and must avoid speaking his name out of respect and shame. When the wife dies in a location distant from her place of origin, no matter how far away that may be, her remains will be transported back to her village, to her own people. Understandably, such attitudes can lead to conflict within the family, the wife often feels like a foreigner and find it difficult to integrate, knowing that she is not in their home but in her husband’s home. Any visiting relative of the husband’s is more at home than the wife.
Thus the husband’s brother will not hesitate to remind the woman of her,’ foreign origin if her behavior does not please him. And if visitor is the husband’s mother, the situation becomes still worse, for the mother will believe herself to have full control of her son’s home and may attempt to run it.
Obviously, such attitudes to marriage can cause problems in the home. This traditional view of marriage can also have consequences with regard to the status and training of the children. Some traditions regard the children as the offspring of the father and not the mother. She is simply the woman who has borne the children for him. In matriarchal traditions, the children are recognized as belonging solely to the mother.
Neither system regards the children as belonging equally to both parents. Either the man or the woman can feel wronged or slighted in the training of their children. A final consequence of these traditions follows from the fact that a man’s inheritance belongs solely to the members of his family. Since the wife is not regarded as a member of her husband’s family, she does not inherit anything, and when her husband dies, she may be left destitute.
There is no concept of joint property owned by both the man and his wife. Modern legislation may have given women inheritance rights, but conflicts still arise because of the way the relationship is perceived.
One positive aspect of the traditional African concept of marriage is the strength it gives the extended family and the sense of community it encourages. A nuclear family on its own is weak.
But the Bible makes it clear that the nuclear family should have a core strength that the traditional
concept tends to deny. As Christians, we need to work towards enriching our African culture by integrating into it the new concepts set out in God’s ideal for Christian marriage.
I wish to add that if Africa can follow the principle of marriage as ordained by God, greater number of marriages will experience peace.
It is my hope that every African marriage will experience stability and peace in Jesus name.
Circulate this message until there is a change in our perception about marriage in Africa.
( An extract from African bible commentary 2006).