Do Christians who pay lobola value their cultures more than God?

My name is Temogo and I am a born again child of God. I am also Pedi. My mother is Tsonga and my father is Pedi. I easily give it away I am Pedi as most Pedis pronounce their “R” different to other people. I grew up in a Christian home that never practiced any cultural practices such as ancestral rituals and so forth. However, growing up in an African home, one always knew the day someone decides to marry them, they are going to have to pay lobola. It was not up for discussion whether it should be paid or not.

As a Christian, lobola is not something I questioned whether it is detestable to God or not. I know that it is not what it used to be but, I just never questioned if Christians should be practicing it until I was questioned about it. “Did they pay lobola for you? If you had it your way, would you have allowed them to pay lobola for you? Will you want your children to pay lobola?” these are some of the questions that were posed to me that left me feeling confused and offended.

Question is, why was I offended? Did I love my culture more than God? Was I a selective Christian? The book of Deuteronomy is clear to the children of Israel what they needed to do when the Lord won battles for them, and they were to destroy everything and kill everyone in that area. They were not to even entertain or inquire about their enemy’s traditions. From this, I get the whole warning not to worship other gods or worship ancestors by doing rituals and talking to them and so forth, but does lobola fall under this?

One of the hardest things to Africans about believing in God is leaving everything they know and trust Him fully. Not only that, most Africans find it hard to believe that God is for them when the very bible does not accommodate their (culture) traditions. They struggle with the fact that the bible does not acknowledge their ways of doing things, therefore how can God be relevant to them if they have to do away with how they have been taught?

Why doesn’t the bible acknowledge our African traditions?
Why doesn’t the bible talk about lobola or whatever we want to hold on to? Firstly we need to know who wrote the bible and why they wrote it. The Jews wrote the bible. The bible however is inspired by God and He used them to write the bible. The Jews are the chosen people, and from Genesis to Revelation, God used them to write the bible and make Himself known to all humankind. “The only country created by God is Israel. Jesus was a Jew. So this is the nation dear to God and they wrote the bible for us; gave us Jesus and started the church. So we ought to bless the Jews- Jimmy Evans”. It is pointless for us to be indifferent about Israel and the Jews. I was one of the people who used to say “Africa is the promised land”. That is not scriptural. The Promised Land is Israel!

Where do we fit it?
Everyone who is not a Jew is a gentile and God had a plan for gentiles before the foundations of the earth were formed because He loves all humankind. The book of Romans 11 speaks of how we have been “grafted in”. If you are a born again Christian, through grace, you are part of Gods family and you are His child. The bible was written by Jews but not for Jews only but, for all humankind to live by it. God creates with an end in mind, with an eternal plan in mind so He has all Jews and gentiles in His plan.

What exactly is marriage?
Marriage is when two people make a covenant before God; someone who is recognised by the state to marry them (priest) and two or more witnesses. That oath binds the two. The bible says when two or more agree, there am I with them. The union is then concealed by the two having sex and they become one. They have created a Godly marriage soul tie. No one can ever do that except God. It is special and sacred. When we have weddings, whether it may be a traditional wedding or a modern one (white), it is only a celebration of the covenant.

Another confusing thing is, are you married after signing and are given a marriage certificate? Or are you married after you have said your vows?

You are married after you have said your vows before God, the priest and two or more witnesses. Whether you said them in a church, at home or at a wedding venue, you are married. However, we live in the world and in a state with laws. Just as the Pharisees tried testing Jesus when they asked Him, should we pay taxes to Caesar? Jesus answered them, “Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God”. Our state regards you married legally when you have a marriage certificate. Let us not be foolish by avoiding paying taxes or being legally married by trying to say we are children of God. Obey the laws of the state you live in, yet knowing you live for God and by Gods ways.

Lobola is not the root for premarital sin. It cannot be! I know couples in situations where the man paid lobola but is not married to the lady. I know people who live in big homes with so much money but hide behind lobola being the reason they live together but are not married. I know couples where the man was willing but did not have the ability to pay lobola, yet they went and got married rather than live in sin. People will always do what they want to do, but lobola did not start all this mess.

Where does all of this put our culture customs?

“Diversity is features we cannot change such as race, gender and so forth. Culture is people’s way of doing things. Culture can change and it can adapt. – Ps Dick Khoza”

Lobola is part of our tradition as most South Africans. Traditions are part of culture and culture can adapt or change. I don’t think lobola is sinful and Black South African Christians must do without it. However, what we can do is shift lobola to glorify God. They paid lobola for me and if I had another opportunity to do it all over again, my husband and I would do it the same way without any changes. He paid lobola and my family used all that money towards wedding expenses. No ancestral slaughtering took place. We never lived together or regarded ourselves married until we said our vows. So this was us celebrating the uniqueness of our culture but used it to honour God.

I am proud to be a Christian and I am proud to be a Pedi. I love God so much that my culture had to adapt and change to honour God’s ways. My children are free to practice lobola or not practice it, it is up to them, however I refuse to teach them what is not true about lobola. Lobola is not witchcraft and it is not the root to premarital sin. It is to a black person what a R30 thousand engagement ring is to a white person.

More than anything, let us allow God to define us. We can spend years arguing about stuff not mentioned in the bible. Stuff that doesn’t get us into eternity. There is only one truth and that is the word of God. We should never allow our cultures to be the lash we judge others with. Filter everything under the word of God, and choose to know the truth for yourself by asking God to show you. Jesus died for us to have a relationship with God, so talk to Him and ask Him what is His truth. Watch how that will set you free.

“When you make disciples, we should make them not be like us. Preach the gospel but don’t change people to be like you. God delights in diversity!”

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