When I write about how Anabaptists need reformation regarding communion, baptism, and the head covering, I speak with passion because I feel strongly about it. I feel there are some deep issues involved that need repenting of.
My next topic that I will be addressing is not of that nature. It is an issue that I would not consider to be wrong or right but yet needs to be addressed simply because some in the Anabaptist denomination have decided to call something sin that God has not. We do this with a number of our applications of real Biblical commands at times, but this particular one has been debated a lot in the last few years and that is why I am addressing it specifically.
Those of you that are familiar with my blog know that I like to take a topic and break it down into several posts addressing that particular topic. So my next several installments will be regarding the wedding band.
Recently I read a BMA publication regarding the wedding band and some of what I will be writing in the next several posts is in response to that. You can find that publication here .
First of all I would like to say what the wedding ring is not. It is not a preserving factor in marriage. Wearing something that symbolizes that you are married does not have the power to keep your marriage intact. It is not for warding off ungodly men or women making improper advances. Whether or not you are married may not matter to someone who does not see God’s plan for marriage as being only between one man and one woman. It is not even necessary to be worn as a reminder to the wearer of the commitment made to their spouse. If that is the only thing that reminds you that you are married, your vows most likely meant little to you and your marriage is probably on shaky ground already.
What is the purpose of the wedding band then? The only legitimate purpose that I can see for the wedding band is simply to make the statement “I am married”.
Is it wrong to want to let people know that I am married?
Most cultures have some outward way of letting people know whether they are single and available; or married and unavailable. Not every culture is the same. For some it is a necklace with a specific symbol. For some it is a toe ring, others wear a ring on their right hand because the left hand is considered unclean. Even some groups within Anabaptist cultures symbolize marital status. For Amish and some stricter groups, men grow a beard after marriage. For Amish women, the color of the covering worn in church changes from black to white after she is married. In many cultures, including American, a ring worn on the third finger of the left hand symbolizes that you are married.
But in many of our conservative Anabaptist circles, we have nothing that gives a statement of marital status.
Is it necessary to have a symbol specifically for the purpose of stating “I am married”? Is it wrong not to? Since the Bible is silent on this, I would be reluctant to say you must have some outward symbol that says you are married.
However, having an outward symbol could have helped dispel some awkward situations where young men have either approached a young lady or asked another person about a young lady they had interest in– only to find out she was married. It can be embarrassing and awkward for a long time for both parties after such an occurrence.
Another reason for having a symbol of marital status is because of the “appearance of evil”. A number of years ago I read a Mennonite publication that warned young married couples not to show affection in public because someone might mistake them for a dating couple and that it could give the “appearance of evil”. But wouldn’t it be more logical and sensible to have some outward symbol that lets people know you are married and let them see that Anabaptists do show love and affection in marriage? In this day and age, married couples that show affection are rare-why not be the example the world needs to see?
That said, I still think it should be a matter of personal choice about whether one chooses to wear a symbol of their marital status. Those that have had an experience like the former example mentioned above, are often the ones who have said that they wish they had something that stated outwardly that they are married. And young married couples should at least have the option of being able to have an outward symbol instead of feeling guilt for showing affection to their spouse in the presence of others.
Since the American culture recognizes the wedding band as being the symbol of marriage (and we have no symbol in our own sub-culture), it would make sense that we would use what is recognized by society around us. Some argue that we should not follow a “Christianized” pagan custom1 ; but that is a rather weak argument considering we celebrate Christmas which is also a “Christianized” pagan custom. 2
The Bible is silent on the subject of wedding bands, but the reason so many Anabaptists reject them is because they reject the wearing of most jewelry (I say most because many conservative Anabaptist groups are generally accepting of things that serve a purpose, such as watches, decorative hair clips, headbands, brooches for special occasions, etc). The Bible is not silent about jewelry so it would be good to do some studying to see what Scripture has to say about it.
In my next few articles, I will be doing that.
1. Marlin M. Miller, Should Christians Wear the Wedding Band? pg.4