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Marriage and denomination – By Francis Ewherido

I had a useful conversation with the driver of a cab that I took last Monday. He told me cab driving was financially rewarding for him, but it was taking a toll, especially on his spiritual life. “How,” I asked him out of curiosity.

He said Fridays to Mondays are his peak days and so he finds himself skipping Sunday services and lying to his very religious fiancée, who always inquires if he went to church on Sunday. I advised him on what to do to redress the situation.

Then I asked him if he and his fiancée belong to the same denomination. He said, “No.” I told him it is a potential landmine he needed to sort out before their wedding. He said it is already resolved. After much argument, his fiancée agreed to move to his church after their wedding with a proviso we shall come to shortly.  I advised him to also sort out his own non attendance of church services and non involvement in church activities before marriage.

Normally, many women who change to their husbands’ denominations after marriage go back to their denominations if they find out that their husbands’ Christian life is weak. Such husbands, therefore, need to lead by example. They not only need to attend church services/Mass, their Christianity should reflect in the way they live their lives. That made sense to him.

The proviso, which got me worried, was that the fiancée said if his church is not spiritual enough, she will go back to her church. I asked, who determines which church is spiritual and which one is not? Many Christians lapse into spiritual arrogance and unknowingly step outside human boundaries to the divine realm.

Many people simply belong to denominations whose mode of worship suit their personality.

Some like it orderly and solemn, others like spontaneity, plenty of music and dancing; some want to listen to prosperity and inspirational messages.  Choose the denomination that enhances your Christian life and leave others to choose theirs. Stop being a judge; that belongs to God. In this heavenly race, look up to Jesus, who is the author and finisher of your faith, not your pastor or denomination.

He also said that the fiancée attributed the death of his aunt to the spiritual weakness of their church and that got me more worried. I see her going back to her church after their wedding, contrary to their pre-wedding agreement. She already considers the denomination she is going to move to spiritually weak.  Well, I told him I did not subscribe to his fiancée’s line of thought. To start with, Christianity is a personal relationship between you and your God, on the one hand, and you and your fellow humans, on the other hand.

That was why Jesus told the lawyer and Pharisee, who came to tempt him that the two greatest commandments are love for God and love for your fellow human being. Your denomination, like a Rolls Royce, Range Rover, Peugeot or Toyota, is only a vehicle to enhance your journey to your destination.

If you like, consider your denomination a Rolls Royce and the other person’s a Kia Picanto. Just remember that if you drive your Rolls Royce recklessly (mismanage the two relationships), you will be involved in an accident (damage the relationships) and will not get to your destination (heaven), while the Picanto owner, slow and steady, will. Let him who thinks he is firmly rooted be careful lest he slips.

The other mistake many people make is the thinking that Christianity is an activity. Christianity is not an activity. As we said a while ago, Christianity is a dual personal relationship. All your dancing, clapping, fasting, abstinence, reception of Holy Communion, etc., are activities. They only become Christianity if they make you a better human being. If it were not so, Nigeria would have been one of the holiest and best countries in the world.

We have enough Christians—no, Catholics, Anglicans and Pentecostals—to make Nigeria great.

We do not even need the Muslims or other denominations to clean up Nigeria. If the lives of all Catholics, for instance, were Christ-like, like small yeast on dough, they would have permeated all aspects of our national life and transformed other Nigerians and Nigeria into a great country by now.

We are a very religious people without accompanying spirituality, so spare me the denominational crap; keep it in your pocket. All have simply sinned and come short…. Your religious status or denomination is of no interest to me; your way of life is. Christianity is a way of life/living, with Jesus Christ as model.

I sincerely wish that someday we can take religion out of our national affairs.  It has not been helpful. Religion is a personal matter and let it remain so. The only reason I advocate for religious harmony in marriages is because marriage, too, is a personal matter. Religion is very emotional and volatile, and you do not want to turn your home into a raging inferno due to religious disharmony. Kudos to those married couples who are managing their religious differences well, but not every couple has that capacity.

The other matter I told him to sort out before marriage is the number of children he and fiancée want to have. It was good I told him because it was not in his consideration. Naturally, a horse comes before the cart to pull it, not vice versa. Always agree on the number of children before marriage. What if an unplanned pregnancy occurs? It happens sometimes, but agree on the number of children before marriage all the same.

Keeping pre-nuptial agreement on the number of children is very important. I have friends who almost divorced their wives for breaching such agreements. One called a family meeting when the wife got pregnant with their third child. They had agreed on two.

He told the family that he was pardoning the wife, but if she went for the fourth, he was done. Another friend did not even allow the wife that latitude. He said two is two, another pregnancy…the marriage is over. The wife would want to have another child, a daughter, but she knows the man she calls husband and has refrained.

 


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