Last July we attended our first Kenyan marriage dowry. There was much joyful music and dancing, conversation and laughter, gift-giving and preaching, and more delicious food than you can shake a stick at. Like a funeral, a dowry celebration is a community event.
While marriage is a casual agreement between two people in America for legal benefits, most Kenyans still practice the ancient tradition of dowry marriage. A young man is required to make a payment to the family of his bride before the marriage is permitted. The dowry may consist of money, a number of goats, and several sacks of rice or beans, sugar or honey. [Technically, this is not a dowry, as a dowry is paid by the bride’s family to the husband-to-be; I’m using Kenyan lingo here].
Don’t misunderstand. This isn’t a culture of a man “buying” a woman. The man pays a sum to the bride’s family not to own her, but because she is highly valued by her family and it proves the man’s willingness to sacrifice, work hard, and provide for his new wife. It’s a beautiful emblem of love and commitment that no longer exists in the marriage traditions of the Western World.
The Bible refers to the Church as the bride of Christ, which He loves, nourishes and cherishes (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:29). Jesus sacrificed His life to purchase her (1 Peter 1:19). He is presently building a home for us to abide in with Him for eternity (John 14:2-3). Jesus has promised to be with us always (Matthew 28:20) and if we ask anything of Him, He will do it (John 14:14).
The Kenyan dowry tradition has caused me to ponder the great love of a great Saviour.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it (Ephesians 5:25).