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WEDDING RING: African Clerics On Its Myth And Significance

'I Prefer To Use The Word Of God To Join Couples Rather Than A Ring'
(Pastor (Dr.) Jacob E. Umoru, President, Lagos Atlantic Conference, Seventh-day Adventist Church in Nigeria)
ACTUALLY, from my understanding of God's word, wedding ring is not the true test of love. The foundation of marriage is still in the word of God. So, I prefer to use God's word to join couples rather than a ring. Ring is just outward, but once the word of God is accepted and practised, that will help the marriage to stand rather than ring. Sometimes, we use the ring and sometimes we don't. The reason is that if it is in a country where wearing wedding ring is a law, and you don't follow the rule, you may

be accused of not obeying the law. But ordinarily, we don't use the ring, which is not biblical. Wedding ring does not stop one from infidelity. It doesn't bestow the true sense of faithfulness, which is in the heart. This is why I believe that if people believe God's word and fear Him, ring or no ring, they will still honour God. They will be faithful to their marriage.
I am not going to condemn anybody, as those who practise it do so in accordance with their faith. We have a lot of problems in the world today because we dwell more on the outward. But God looks at the inward and if we accept God's word as well as obey Jesus Christ, we will be more faithful and not focus so much on the outward. Even with their wedding rings on, some people still go ahead to do whatever they like. I think the best thing is to be faithful to God's word and our hearts. Sometimes, people don't want to wear it because of the inconsistency. Some drop their wedding rings because they feel they are being caged. So, personally, I prefer that people hold fast to the word of God, which is the foundation of marriage.
'It Reminds Couples That They Are Committed And Responsible As Well'
(Rev. (Dr.) Kayode Opadeji, Snr Pastor, First Baptist Church, Ikeja, Lagos)

AS you are talking with me right now, I am wearing my own. It is important and is a sign that has no beginning and ending. Here, we tell our members that their love has no beginning and no ending. In other words, it is expected that there shouldn't be any condition attached to it. Once you marry that woman or man, the two of you have to live together till death do you part. So, that understanding is from the Bible, which expects that a couple should live together forever even though some people may opt for divorce. This is not right because the Bible says in Malachi 1:16 that God hates divorce. So, we expect that the love that exists between couples should not give room for outsiders or third party to interfere. Aside this, since rings are made of gold that cannot rust, as it remains the same forever, a marriage should also be like that. Love should not disintegrate or diminish, but should remain the same. I have been wearing my wedding ring close to 19 years now.

On whether it can stop one from infidelity. It is a matter of the heart. If people don't have genuine love for their partners, ring or no ring they can still do whatever they like. Once you see individuals wearing wedding rings, it shows they are committed and responsible people. There are some genuine couples that don't wear wedding rings though and that does not mean they don't love their spouses. Some people are allergic to metals, as they irritate their bodies and this is the reason such people don't wear wedding rings. Some people don't wear their wedding rings because they got lost in their carelessness. If any body wants to be involved in infidelity, he/she can still go ahead even with the ring on. The ring doesn't stop anyone from committing sin or messing around. Basically, however, the ring is symbolic and should remind couples of their commitment and responsibility towards their partners. Each denomination has its own dogma or doctrine and it depends on their encounter with God or the revelation the leadership has received from the Lord. And even in denominations where they use rings, if a couple decides not to wear theirs, you can't compel them. The important thing is that they must come to the church with the Bible. For a groom, it is a token of love to his bride, while the Bible is the covenant that binds the two of them together.
 'Couples Are Supposed To Wear Their Wedding Rings For Life'
(Rt. Rev. Monsignor John Aniagwu, Vicar-General of the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos/Parish Priest, St. Leo's Catholic Church, Ikeja, Lagos)

I REALLY don't know the origin of the wedding ring, but couples are supposed to wear their rings for the rest of their lives. While blessing couples at the wedding ceremony, our prayer is that they will continue to wear those rings for the rest of their lives. But if they put aside their wedding rings after the wedding, I think that is not proper. I cannot remember a situation where people exchanged wedding rings in the Bible. That is why I said I don't know the origin of wedding rings. I have never researched into it to know where it came from but you know that it is something that you find in the Christian tradition. You don't necessarily exchange rings in other traditions when people wed. For instance, in African marriages, you don't have to use the wedding ring. I don't know if the Muslims do so, but I think that the Indians don't use wedding rings. It is typical of the Western Christian tradition, if I may put it that way. The church is practising it because it has been there for centuries and it just continues that way. It is one of the signs to show that two people are joined together. You will notice that the wedding ring is unbroken, which is supposed to show that the marriage bond should not be broken. It is just a sign of being married and when you see it on a man or woman's finger, you can tell that the person is married. There are other kinds of rings, but you can easily distinguish a wedding ring from the rest.

On infidelity, whether one wears a wedding ring or not, you are supposed to be faithful to your spouse. So, wearing the ring or not should not determine one's faithfulness to his/her vow. The marriage vow is a solemn promise made not just to your partner or spouse but also to the Lord. That is why when we solemnise a marriage in the church, it is God Himself that joins the two people together, which was why Jesus said: "What God has joined together man should not divide". So, God Who joins them together expects them to be faithful. The marriage is not in the ring but in the heart and mind of those who have gone into it. For churches that don't practise it, it's not compulsory. The essence of marriage is not in the ring; so whether people use it or any other thing for that matter, it does not in any way affect the validity of the marriage. Different traditions and different cultures use different signs. So, there are some Christian churches that opt out of using the wedding ring, which is still in order. A marriage is a marriage. Wedding ring is an external sign, but the marriage is everything in the heart of those who go into it, not in the external sign.
'Wedding Ring Is Just A Symbol Of Exchange'
(Rev. (Mrs.) Roselyn Oduyemi, General Overseer of Bethel Wonder City, Lekki, Lagos)

WEDDING ring is a sign of covenant. I don't know why people drop their wedding rings after wedding, but it's just a symbol of covenant to show that you are in a covenant with somebody. It also shows that that love is forever; it is unbroken and unending. Wedding ring doesn't prevent or stop one from infidelity. If people want to be unfaithful, they will still be. Sometimes, people remove their rings so that others will not know they are married. If married people want to commit sin they will still do so, wedding ring or not. It doesn't stop anything.

And maybe this is why some people remove their wedding rings, as everybody knows you are married once you wear a wedding ring. Again, some people say they don't wear gold or rings. I don't know whether it is biblical or not. In a covenant relationship, people exchange something, which I think is what it is. The ring is just a symbol of that exchange. Wedding vows are taken from the scriptures and some people exchange the Bible. There are doctrinal differences, but we are all one in Christ. I think it is the unity that is more important than all those differences.
'Some Churches Believe Wedding Ring Is Demonic'
(Pastor (Mrs.) Ngozi Oluwagbemiga, Famous Gospel Proclaimers Ministry, Ojudu, Lagos)

THERE is no place in the Bible, where it is endorsed that people should wear wedding ring. But there is a place in the Old Testament, where certain things were done as a seal of marital union and which can be symbolic. I think that wedding ring signifies unending love, a bond that should exist between two people coming together.

Why some churches don't use wedding ring is a personal thing. Some believe wedding ring is demonic because it was made of gold. Some believe it will make you worldly and extravagant, while others believe it is a medium through which Satan can attack. There are varied reasons couples drop their wedding rings but I wear my mine all the time. For some people, it is simply that they bought fake wedding rings and they feel ashamed wearing something that is not original; so they may decide to put it off. Some don't wear theirs because of marital conflict. Some don't wear theirs out of annoyance and they just pull them off. However, when you see couples that wear their wedding rings religiously, it has to do more with their ideology and mindset. Another reason is that as couples grow, they tend to reduce what they want in life or devalue what they have. Some people don't wear theirs out of carelessness. Some people wear it because they see it, as a symbol of love, as well as repelling unwanted advances. It all depends on how individuals see the symbolic aspect of these things. Whether some churches endorse it or not is personal. Wedding ring does not determine whether a marriage is going to be healthy or that it will last. However, each time you look at the wedding ring on your finger, it reminds you of the covenant and affects you, if you have the fear of God.

Wedding ring has never been able to prevent couples from infidelity. Infidelity is a habit and a moral issue. You can remove your ring and put it in your pocket. Even with their wedding rings on, some people still go head to do what they like. So, it doesn't prevent any one from getting involved in infidelity. But people that fear God hallow the symbol and keep the bond that should exist between husband and wife.
'At GKS, Wearing Of Rings Is Not Part Of Our Marriage Ceremony'
(Brother Godwin Ifeacho, Chairman, Executive Board, God's Kingdom Society (GKS), church of the Living God, Salem City, Warri)

IN certain religious circles, it is believed that a man and a woman are not properly married except a priest officiates at the marriage ceremony and the couple exchanges rings. According to the Book of Common Prayer, the "solemnisation of matrimony" involves an open declarations by both the priest and the parties contracting the marriage. At a stage, the priest delivers the ring to the man who puts it upon the fourth finger of the woman's left hand, saying: "With this ring I thee wed with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow…" The word "worship" here is improper, as it is very unscriptural. It is only God Almighty and Jesus Christ true Christians worship. The husband should not worship his wife and the wife must not worship her husband. (Isaiah 45:23; Matthew 4:10; 20:20; Hebrews 1:5, 6; Revelation 22:8,9) The use of wedding rings during church services as a means of "joining" the couple is uncalled for and is in fact out of harmony with the Bible. The Scriptures show that it is God that joins a man and a woman as husband and wife, not the priest, minster or pastor, whose duty is only to bless and exhort them with the word of God - Genesis 2:21-24; Proverbs 30:18,19; 1 Corinthians 7:3-10; etc.

The system of wedding with the ring and worshipping the wife is a European custom garnished with religious formalities. According to accredited authorities, the origin of betrothal and nuptial rings go back, at least, to Roman times when rings were used as seals and symbols of ownership and wealth and some of which were keys to access storerooms. At the time of marriage, the responsibility for the keys to a man's storeroom was handed over to his bride and so came about the custom of giving a ring to a bride and with it 'all his worldly goods'. It was then believed that the fourth finger had a vein, which went straight to the heart, and so this became the marriage ring finger. Also, as the circle was a symbol of wholeness and endless continuity, the wedding ring, as a plain circle, came to be symbolic of endless love and the marriage bond. The gold from which it was made represented purity, noble and durable affection. Also, since the right hand was considered the hand of power and authority whilst the left, the hand of subjection and dependence, it was ordered in The English Book of Common Prayer that the ring be placed on the fourth finger of the woman's left hand.

However, the American Tract Society Dictionary, states that the use of rings for various purposes other than marriage have been from antiquity. The ring was used chiefly as a signet to seal with, and Scripture generally assigns it to princes and great persons; such as the king of Egypt, Joseph, Ahaz, Jezebel, king Ahasuerus, his favourite Haman, Mordecai, king Darius, etc. (Genesis 41:42;1Kings 21:8; Esther 3:10; Jeremiah 22:24; Daniel 6:17). Bible records show that rings were used in time of old as ornaments for the ears, nose, legs, arms, or fingers. (Genesis 1:1-50:26; 38:18). When Pharaoh committed the government of Egypt to Joseph, he gave him his ring from his finger. The father of the prodigal son directed that a ring should be put on his finger, Luke 15:22.

At the GKS, the wearing of rings is not part of the marriage ceremony because the churches have made it to symbolise the "worship" of the woman by the man and of "joining" the couple in marriage, contraryto the word of God– Isaiah 45:22; Genesis 3:16; Ephesians 5:22-24; etc.

The wearing of rings as sign of marriage or as ornament is optional at the GKS. In other words, the church does not prohibit the use of ring as an ornament of dressing.Besides, it prevents undue harassment, as all who wear the ring are accepted as married. Thus, it is easy to immediately tell who is married and who is single - just as mode of dressing in Bible times and in our traditional setting enables one to quickly identify the marital state of each person. (2Samuel 13:18). Nevertheless, that a woman has a ring on her finger does not prevent her from being promiscuous, if she wants to. It is the fear of God that prevents a woman, by the grace of God, from being unfaithful, not the ring. (Proverbs 31:30; Hebrews 13:4). However, some do not use rings at all because of the abuses to which some have put it. So, those who use it should ensure it is not used for ungodly purposes.
Marital Vows'
(Rev. (Dr.) Musa Asake, National General Secretary, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN)

THE wedding ring is a symbol of valuable promises.

In Biblical times, the seal of the king was fixed to a letter to prove that it was genuine and personal. It was a visible mark of the sender's faithfulness, and it was received in the same spirit. Similarly, the golden purity of your wedding rings symbolises the purity of your promises. Its unending circumference represents your vow of allegiance for time and eternity. Couples that have stopped wearing their wedding rings have different reasons among, which might be lack of commitment to the marital vows.

The wearing of the ring is supposed to remind one of his or her marital vows and keep one away from practising infidelity. But sad to say that in this time and age, it does not. It has just become a tradition not taken serious by some. Some believe that the oldest recorded exchange of wedding rings comes from ancient Egypt, about 4800 years ago. Sedges, rushes and reeds, growing alongside the well-known papyrus were twisted and braided into rings for fingers and other decorative ornaments worn by the women in those days. The circle was the symbol of eternity, with no beginning or end, not only to the Egyptians, but many other ancient cultures.

The hole in the centre of the ring is also significant. It wasn't just considered a space, but rather a gateway, or door that leads to things and events both known and unknown. To give a woman a ring signifies never-ending and immortal love. It was not until about 860 that the Christians used the ring in marriage ceremonies. And even then, it was not the simple plain band, as we know it. It usually was highly decorated with engraved doves, lyres, or two linked hands.

The Church discouraged such rings as 'heathenish' and, around the 13th century, wedding and betrothal rings were considerably simplified, and given a more spiritual look, which was very aptly expressed by a clergy, when he dubbed it a "symbol of the union of hearts." Wedding rings through different stages in history have been worn on different fingers, including the thumb, and on both the left and right hands.

According toa tradition believed to have been derived from the Romans, the wedding ring is worn on the left hand ring finger because there was thought to be a vein in the finger, referred to as the 'Vena Amoris' or the 'Vein of Love' said to be directly connected to the heart. However, scientists have shown this is actually false. Despite this, thismyth still remains regarded by many (hopeless romantics) as the number one reason rings are worn on the fourth finger.

The Bible gives no indication that finger rings were used as betrothal or nuptial rings. The signet ring is the earliest type of ring mentioned in the Bible. We read in Genesis 38:17-19, when Tamar disguised herself as a harlot to entice her father-in-law, Judah, she asked him for his signet, cord, and staff as a pledge for his promise to send her "a kid from the flock". In Jeremiah 22:24, we are told that the Israelites wore the signet ring on the right hand and that it was used to seal various contracts. It was a symbol of authority, dignity, and social status (James 2:2). Pharaoh gave his signet ring to Joseph as a symbol of authority (Gen 41:42).

Likewise, Ahasuerus gave his signet to Haman to seal a royal decree (Esth 3:10, 12). Upon his return, the prodigal son received a ring from his father as a symbol of dignity (Luke 15:22).

The finger rings mentioned in the Bible were signet rings used as symbol of authority and dignity. The Romans are credited for pioneering the use of the signet ring as a betrothal ring. The Jews and the Christians borrowed the practice from the Romans. Since the betrothal ceremony usually involved the groom giving a sum of money or a valuable object to the bride, it was a natural transition to make this object a ring. The reason Christians did not oppose the adoption of the betrothal ring is because they perceived it to be not an ornament but a symbol of marital commitment. They did not anticipate that the betrothal ring would eventually tempt Christians to follow the example of the pagans in wearing all sorts of ornamental rings.The wedding ring does not prevent one from committing sin or being unfaithful to the partner. Knowing Christ and living according to His teaching is what can make one to remain faithful to his or her partner.
'People Who Don't Wear Their Wedding Rings Are Foolish'
(His Eminence (Dr.) Samuel 'Emeka Uche, Prelate, Methodist Church Nigeria (MCN)

WEDDING RING is what you may call a symbol of fidelity that cannot be broken. Marriage is for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer. Whatever the circumstance may be in marriage, the wedding ring signifies that you cannot break your covenant because it is not just between the man and woman alone, but also between them and God. If you are a Christian, you cannot think of divorce. The people that don't wear their wedding rings are foolish.

My wife and I always wear our wedding rings and it is only when we want to sleep that they are removed. But first thing in the morning, we put them back on. We don't ever move out of the house without wearing our wedding rings. It is when people want to be unfaithful, or pretend that they are not married or have ulterior motive that they refuse to wear their wedding rings. Some churches use wedding ring, while some people give the Bible. It depends on the belief and practice of each church. But what we learn from the Europeans is that we wear wedding ring. The churches where members are not wearing wedding rings are new comers. They don't know what we are doing because they are not mature. In life there are adults and there are children. They are new comers and that is why they don't practice it. But churches like Anglican, Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian and Baptist are.

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