Thursday, May 31, 2012

Polygamy in the Church--Dying or Thriving?

My Datooga friend, Danieli, drinking honey beer out of a cow's horn
I wish I could say that polygamy in the church is a 'dying problem.'  Even though it is not as rampant as it use to be even one generation ago, it is still an ever present issue which is not going away even though the vast majority of Tanzanian churches stand against it.  With roughly 45% of the population being Muslim who believe that they can take up to four wives, and, at least 20% of the population holding to traditional religions, who take as many wives as they can afford, in Africa, at least, the problem of people being saved and added to the church with 'baggage' is indeed a 'thriving problem'...not a dying one! 

With that in mind, I returned the next day to speak with Pastor Israeli about his particular situation. I thought it most beneficial to rehearse Bible principles first; thus, we discussed passages like Matthew 19 and 1 Corinthians 7, in order to clarify what both Paul and the Lord wrote concerning the marriage issue.  After this, it was fairly simple to answer the following two questions.  Just how does a polygamous family serve in the church?  If they have repented of their sin and have done what is required of him from the Scriptures so that they have a conscience void of offense both before God and man, then there is nothing to keep them from serving the Lord in any capacity in the church, except as an ordained minister or deacon (having fallen short of some of the qualifications listed in 1 Timothy 3).
Two of Danieli's three wives

Therefore, the lone question which remained was whether or not the husband should come to church with both wives.  My question to him was, "If there was a man in your church who had divorced and remarried before getting his life right with God, would it be appropriate for him to leave his wife at home?"  He agreed that that would not be appropriate.  "In light of that", I continued, "you have three people in a very difficult situation who need, more than anything, to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). What else would you have them do if not sit under your teaching at your church?"  He agreed that church was the best place for people to be in order to grow in both grace and knowledge.

"What about participation in the Lord's supper?" he inquisitively asked?
"What about it?"  I retorted.
"Should he participate, or not?" he continued.
"What does 1 Corinthians 11 say?  Does he have unconfessed sin in his life?"  I responded 
"I suppose not." he concluded

I was getting a pic with one of Danieli's kids when another lady jumped in
I understood the struggle in his mind was not so much that he was looking for some way to condemn the man as much as he was looking for a way to not condone his situation.  In light of that, I recommended that he not place on him a yoke of standard that was not commanded in Scripture.  Instead, have him testify in church of what his situation is; and, that he repented of it and turned his life over to the Lord.  After doing this, you as pastor can teach what the Bible says about it so that no one can accuse you of condoning "polygamy in the church."

We reached the end of our discussion.  I could tell he was thankful to walk away with renewed confidence in the Bible.  I was thankful that he had indeed placed that confidence in God's Word and not in mine!  For the truth is, missionaries come and go, but two things will always be there--polygamy in the Church and solutions in God's Word.

[For a more extensive reading of my thoughts on this particular polygamous situation, please read the follow-up post entitled: Polygamy--Strange and Estranged}

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