By Viviane Kirezi and Hudson Kuteesa
Taking a knee, going down on one knee, being on bended knee, and other names given to the act done by a man when he proposes a woman for marriage is up for debate especially in Christian circles of Rwanda. According to a study done by a wedding planning website, theknot.com, 76 percent of men believe they should go down on a bent knee to propose. Many women find it appealing for a man to propose on one knee. The message behind the gesture can be that the man is offering himself wholeheartedly to the woman, without reservations, and offering her the choice to determine the course of their relationship.
Appointee to National Training Assistant at International Friendships Inc.
United States, Ohio, Columbus
This tradition has a lot of theories as of how it came to be, but one of them is the most common. According to The Engagement Ring Bible, during the Middle Ages, chivalry was not yet dead and formal courtship was the medieval version of modern-day dating.
Kneeling was also the protocol for many ceremonial rituals and rites of passage, including those of the romantic kind. Medieval artwork and literature shows knights genuflecting before their feudal lord as a sign of honor and respect, or kneeling in front of a noblewoman to express their eternal servitude and admiration in a show of “courtly love.” So, in that sense, when a man takes a knee and whips out a ring, he is not only hoping the woman will say “yes,” he is telling her that she is worthy of honor, respect, and love that lasts an eternity.
When a courteous gentleman was proposing to his lady, pledging his allegiance to her and declaring his undying love for her, getting down on one knee was the natural thing to do. Regardless of where this gesture came from, it is common that practices are borrowed and used in different contexts with different meanings.
As born again Christians, we usually associate kneeling with worship, since we usually kneel in prayer. Many of us kneel with both knees, others genuflect. However, I believe that there is a difference between these kinds of kneeling and the kneeling done during proposals. That difference is that a man who proposes only bends on one knee for a few seconds, and he looks up in the eyes of the woman whereas in an act of worship one kneels down and bows. Also, it is all about the intention behind the gesture. If a man does it while in his heart he gives the woman reverence that only belongs to God, then it’s a big problem.
Taking a knee while proposing recently came to Rwanda just as many other things we imitate from the western world. For the westerners, it is part of their culture, so it is understandable why it is perceived differently in Rwanda. As someone who has lived in the western culture for a few years, I have come to perceive it as a romantic gesture without many meanings behind it.
In my opinion, I think the gesture itself is okay since it is more of a borrowed gesture that is being used with good intentions. If my fiancé took a knee I would be fine with it, and if he didn’t, I wouldn’t mind that much either. Unfortunately, some people who perceive this as something that’s trending and want to be part of the current fail to understand that their partner perceives it another way, leading to conflict. We should watch out as the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 14:13-23. He warned us that we shouldn’t be stumbling blocks to those whose consciences are different from ours, especially when it wouldn’t be harmful for us to compromise.
Taking the knee! What a topic! To approach it, I will start with some kind of context – a somewhat coincidence. I had an amazing zoom meeting today – one that linked me with old friends that I met in 2018 and had never seen them again physically. It was an interesting one, because I got to see their faces again. But that is not all! I also got to be reminded of a couple of important things, one of which is: not making important judgments basing on things that are not that consequential.
During our zoom meeting, we shared from the book of Romans, its 14th chapter. I won’t do a recap of the whole chapter. I will try to mention just a couple of important things. First, I want to bring verses 17-18 into light: For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.
Trying to look at the context here, it looked like Paul was talking to those people during his days who seemed to make a big deal of food in relation to salvation. I guess there were people back then who used to say things like: “Don’t eat this and that because it is not Godly!”
So, it pretty much looked like these people looked at some types of food as something that could stop someone from having a good relationship with God. Paul seems to correct them, here, telling them that the Kingdom of God is not about food or drink, but about righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (I believe all these are provided in pure form by Christ and the Holy Spirit) – not food.
Long story short, types of food shouldn’t be made a big deal to judge great things like the Kingdom of God. But one important thing is here: verses 6-9
“Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. 8 If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9 For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.”
Back to the knee thing, my question is simple now: Taking a knee while proposing to a lover is not a big deal in itself. It becomes a big deal (in a negative way), if the one that does it is really doing it with no consideration of the Lord in his heart, and in the place of the Lord he has put a woman (it is possible). But, putting something in the place of God can be done even without kneeling. I guess many people have replaced God with material things, though they haven’t physically knelt to them. But to God who sees the heart, He knows all things.
I could even conclude it from here. A number of things are not wrong in themselves, but if the heart behind them is one that has little regard for the Lord, they may end up becoming bad. The heart of the matter is a matter of the heart.
Last but not least, another instance that would make taking the knee wrong is: when one takes the knee, yet he knows that there are believers watching him and they don’t approve of the practice. A young believer can backslide just because you did something that he or she doesn’t approve of. We should remember that whatever we do, we do it for God who wants all people to be saved. So, the big deal should be: Is what I am doing within the heart of God who wants to save all just like he saved me? If that’s the motive of your life, I think you may not see a big deal in trivial things. If I take the knee or don’t take it, it is nothing. The big deal is giving all my life to Christ and say: To live is Christ, and to die is gain.