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Can marriage improve one's faith?

This week's clergy look at how a married couple can have a strong religious bond together.

Rabbi Alan Stein, Temple Shalom, which meets in The Historical Chapel, Woodbury:

You need to start with the premise that marriage is a gift from God. It is probably one of the greatest gifts that God is able to give us, a partner who is designed for each of us. He knows who we each are, our qualities, and is selecting a person for us. We just have to have the smarts to recognize the person when he or she is right in front of us. Fate has a lot to do with it as far as I'm concerned, and I perform almost 70 marriages a year. I've also been married for 17 years.

There are three elements in any marriage: the bride, the groom and God. This is also true in same-sex marriages. When we seek to meet someone special, God will present someone to us. But how does that strengthen our faith? Assuming that God is the third person in the relationship, by somebody being kind, respectful and understanding to his or her spouse and acting in a loving manner, the synergistic relationship that exists ultimately strengthens that symbiotic relationship we have with God. The special match completes you spiritually and emotionally.

Not only should you thank God for this marital relationship, but you can appreciate the other gifts he provides. You should want to serve him more fully to improve yourself, but also to do tikkum olam, which means to repair the world. And, because what we do together is far greater than anything we can do alone, we can more fully serve God.

The Rev. Fred Miller, curate/associate pastor, Christ Church Oyster Bay, an Episcopal congregation:

Marriage can strengthen our faith in lots of ways, but it starts even before the marriage, when two people decide to make a lasting commitment to one another. In doing so, we each are helped to understand the relationships that are most pleasing to God. And, at the wedding in our "Book of Common Prayer," the ceremony begins with "dearly beloved." These words are not intended for the couple, but for the whole congregation. The vows that the couple exchanges are their own, but are to be witnessed by the whole congregation as we all learn to share in the deeper love that is God's love for us. That, too, feeds our faith.

Through marriage, living together faithfully and honoring our vows, we learn to honor and follow the vows and commandments God has set for us. When we listen to the other person when our ego tells us we want to be doing something else, we are growing in our marriage and in our faith.

And even if a marriage dissolves, we remember that the goal of marriage remains unchanged. Despite our flaws, we are all God's children, made to live in committed relationships with God and each other.

Pastor Thomas Dimino, Word of Life Ministries, a Full Gospel congregation, Center Moriches:

The intimacy and unity you have in establishing a relationship and an eventual marriage is often a byproduct of your faith. The two so often go hand-in-hand and are hard to separate. Interestingly, my wife was saved before I was, and she became the example for me. I never went to church and tried to get her off going. As she grew in her faith, I grew toward my faith.

As two become one, as we become parents, it is up to us to be the example for our children of being both faithful parents and a faithful couple. The marriage has to grow in faith if we're to show our kids what a godly marriage is and what a godly family is. We now have two children who both serve God and live a better life.

It is important that people understand that Jesus is always wooing us to him. We may not always hear his voice clearly. Sometimes, it is quiet and still, but when we see the love that Christ has toward us through another person, we understand what that love is and can hear his voice more clearly. This love strengthens the whole family unit, which, in turn, strengthens us in our faith journey.

Instead of getting up on Sunday and one going to play soccer, another tennis, my wife going shopping and my going fishing, we eat breakfast and go to church together. It all has to go hand-in-hand. Marriage strengthens your faith and faith increases your marriage.

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