A Marriage Symbol

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.

Wedding_dovesThose 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

2. http://www.simpletoremember.com/vitals/Christmas_TheRealStory.htm

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12 thoughts on “A Marriage Symbol

  1. This is something of a sore subject with us, as we once were having dinner with the minister of a conservative Anabaptist group (unaffiliated but they had their roots in the Beachey Amish) and one of the first things he mentioned was our wedding bands, bands I might add that were pretty simple and were not costly. We have since come to a conviction about the band based mostly on 1 Timothy 2:9-10. I also kind of feel that if others need a ring to know you are married after even a brief conversation, you might want to examine your marriage closely.

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    • This is apparently a rather sore subject to a lot of people on both ends of the spectrum. I can respect anyone’s decision to go either direction with it since I don’t believe it is a salvation issue.

      I agree with your observation in part that if others “need a ring to know you are married after even a brief conversation, you might want to examine your marriage closely”. There are some occasions, however, when that doesn’t apply.

      For example, I know of a married woman who was a enjoying some time with some youth girls at a church function and a visiting young man observed them for awhile. He then began to ask questions about that particular woman to another man to find out more about her. By the time he found out she was married, he was embarrassed that he had shown interest. This information was then also passed on to the woman who was also embarrassed and it was awkward on both ends for quite awhile anytime he came around.

      Nothing sinful, just awkwardness that could possibly have been avoided had the young man known she was married.

      Liked by 1 person

      • As a single young man, I can definitely relate to what you’re saying. Quite frankly, it’s a wonder that we haven’t all heard a dozen similar stories from our Mennonite circles. With no easy symbol of marriage, how does one know if that attractive young person is married or not?

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Good article. I had some correspondence with Marlin Miller when he was writing the paper for BMA on the wedding ring. He had asked for my input because my wife and I started wearing wedding rings. I was disappointed with what he wrote. He ignored much of what I shared with him.

    One day as I was reading in the Bible, a verse stood out to me that I had not seen in that way before. It said “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled” (Hebrew 13:4). As I read that verse, God impressed upon me the need in our culture today to honor marriage by wearing the wedding band. To not wear a wedding band in a society that does not honor marriage, testifies that marriage is not something that is honored. The wedding ring is a visible statement that a person is married. It is not just an American custom, but it is a world custom that is practiced in many countries around the world. Amish and conservative Mennonites need to seriously take a look at their position of not wearing wedding bands, especially now that immorality and sexual abuse in their groups is coming to light. For these groups to not wear wedding bands has greater implications than what it did 50 years ago when their parents or grandparents got married. Then, it was a disgrace for couples to live together unmarried and very few did so. Today, it is common practice for people to live together and not be married. Fifty years ago, divorce was fairly rare. Today, if you see a man or woman by themselves with a child in the checkout line at the store, and he or she does not wear a wedding ring, you assume that they are divorced or the child was born out of wedlock. So, when Mennonites go to the store, what is their hand telling others who see them, and who are they identifying with? – Those who honor marriage or those who dishonor marriage? I believe that to follow what God has said that “Marriage is honorable in all”, it is important for married couples to wear wedding bands in the world in which we live today.

    I used to console myself when my wife and I did not wear wedding rings by thinking that people would understand because she wore a Mennonite headcovering. However, it still gave the impression to those that saw me, that I was divorced when I went someplace without my wife and I had one or more of the children with me. We have taken a strong stance against divorce and remarriage at Biblical Research Reports. I feel strongly that we must not give people even the slightest question that we might be divorced. But in addition to that, my logic that people would understand because a Mennonite lady wore a headcovering was foolish also. There are different cults that have made the news, that did not honor marriage and were involved in all kinds of immorality, and shocked even non-Christians. For Mennonites to dress distinctively from the culture and then to not wear wedding bands can leave questions in people’s minds about what Amish and Mennonites believe about marriage. Most people today do not know what the Amish or Mennonites believe or what they stand for. Are they a cult? The Amish and Mennonite witness in the world has become very weak.

    God gives us another command that we are to follow. “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” 1 Thessalonians 5:22 When a young Amish or Mennonite couple has a baby and they do not wear wedding bands in today’s world, it gives the appearance that they were or are involved in immorality. After all, many children today are born out of wedlock, or the mother is divorced and living with a boy friend. The appearance of evil is not the testimony Christians should have. We live in a messed up world in which people do not necessarily view Christians as good, moral people. Christians need to give a clear testimony that marriage is important to them, that “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled”. The Amish and conservative Mennonite position of not wearing wedding rings does not give that testimony.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Myron,

      Thank you for weighing in. I think you bring out a good point that the Bible says marriage is honorable and that we need to do what we can to honor marriage– especially in today’s society.

      Many in society are lenient to Anabaptist women and do not make the assumption that she is single or divorced even when she is not wearing a wedding band because she already looks different. But since most Anabaptist men look no different than the rest of society, you bring out a valid point that the world may not understand why he is not wearing a ring if married. I have personally heard this comment spoken with a sneer to a man who wore no ring, “Yeah, I can see just how married you are”.

      That said, however, I don’t think that wearing the wedding band is enough of a symbol/testimony to stand alone in saying that we are good, moral people who honor marriage. I know of non-Anabaptist men who do not wear a ring because of the line of work they are in (carpentry, mechanical work, etc) and are honorable in their marriages. I also know of a divorced woman who continues to wear her ring simply because she has no desire to be in another relationship.

      Then there also those who wear a wedding band, but have no qualms about dishonoring their spouses in unfaithfulness…

      A ring is a helpful aid in stating our marital status, but I would be hesitant to rely too much on its ability to sustain our honor in marriage. Nevertheless, I can still understand those who desire to wear a symbol that represents marriage in an honorable way.

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  3. I have friends who wear a simple rubber ring so they can make the statement that they are married without wearing jewelry. I respect that a lot, although I can’t say I have a problem with wearing a wedding band even though I don’t wear one.

    I appreciate the sensible tone of your articles and I’m looking forward to reading what you have to say on this subject!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. For many years I really didn’t even think about it. I spent the bulk of my week working, playing, and worshiping with other Mennonites. For the past 3 years I have been working in an office with, pardon the phrase, non Mennonites. Most if not all all professing Christians. They have asked all the questions that normally arise once they became comfortable and didn’t fear offending me. I did explain our stance on the issue and along with that my personal beliefs. I meet with many men and women that I do not know personally. One of the first things I naturally do is to look for a ring to see if they’re married. If no ring is present, I assume as others have in the comments, that they are divorced, or had children out of wedlock. I often wonder if they view me in the same way. No one knows by my attire that I am a member of a Mennonite church. I don’t announce my affiliation with the denomination unless my last name rings a bell and they ask (a rare occurance). Some people will come right out and ask if I am a Christian. Meeting them later in person can sometimes leave me feeling uneasy with a desire to explain because we have talked about my wife and children. Some have even made the statement, “you’re married? Well then where is your ring?” Our church is a part of the BMA so I have read, but disagree as you do, the statement on jewelry.

    On to my next issue… I have 2 daughters. They of course enjoy playing with fake jewelry whenever it is available. The older of the 2 has never pushed the question, but my youngest (8) has since a very young age been enamored with the idea of wearing jewelry. She has no problem talking to people with pierced ears asking them if it hurt. She would like nothing more than to have hers pierced. This is a tough spot to be in for me personally. During my younger years I was in a church that was fairly conservative. They had convinced me that attending a bowling alley was a sin. As a early teen I happened to be with some people that were not of this persuasion and wanted to go. I remember praying in the back seat that God would change their minds because I was not about to sin by entering that establishment. I do not want to call something sin that God doesn’t plainly spell out in his Word. I also do not want to put my children against the church by saying “because the church says so.” We as a church are struggling right now because our lead pastor thinks we have drifted from the truth due to painted toenails and bracelets. While I agree those things aren’t plain, I can’t find scripture other than the 2 you are going to expound on to back up their theories. I like the way I was raised (values) and enjoy the fellowship of our communities all across the country. I do struggle with the inconsistencies and our tendency to be the modern day Pharisees. I don’t know how we can change, but I do appreciate you starting the conversation!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Tim,
      Thanks joining the discussion. I appreciate your candid approach in addressing this topic. I think that many Anabaptist men face what you are facing.

      I have daughters, too, so I can understand the struggle. When the only reason not to do a specific thing is that the “church has a rule against it” and no Scripture to back it up, it can cause resentment no matter how carefully you word it.

      I love my heritage and the fellowship within our circles also, and I think we need to pray and speak out against our “inconsistencies and our tendency to be the modern day Pharisees”. I believe God is at work among our people, working in hearts and drawing us to Himself. Revive us, Lord!

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  5. Pingback: When Wedding Bands Are Condemned | Another Radical Reformation

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