There’s a line in the wedding ceremony where the Officiant asks, “What sign do you have of your vows?” Every single couple that I’ve married so far has replied, “Rings.” Great choice.
The ring has its own symbolism. Some pastors like to comment on the purity and the expense of the gold, or point out that a circle is endless–all helpful observations.
The ring is also a sign. A highly visible article on our hands. Visible to ourselves, to our spouses, to our parents, children, and friends. Visible to the public. We can all see–at a glance–marital status.
When I teach about baptism, I reach for my wedding ring. I pull it off my hand and show it to the class. I say, “This ring is precious to me.” (Not in the Gollum voice.) I tell them that Diedra, my bride, gave it to me on our wedding day as she made her vows to me. It’s the sign of our covenant to love and care for one another until one of us dies. Then I note that the ring doesn’t make me married. It shows my marriage. When my ring is off, I’m still married. If my ring is lost, I’m still married. The ring isn’t my marriage its the sign of my marriage. And it’s always with me.
Now baptism, similarly, is the sign of our faith. Like the ring, the water carries its own significance (washing away sin, death, burial and resurrection with Christ, etc.). Like the giving of rings in a wedding, Baptism is also public–officiated by a Pastor, it’s done at church, in front of a room full of witnesses (we don’t baptize ourselves privately in the bathtub). Finally, baptism isn’t our faith–one can be saved without Baptism (like the dying thief that Christ promised would be with Him in paradise)–but an important sign of our faith.