My last post, Why Friendships End stated that every friendship will come to an end. Some slowly fade for a variety of reasons. Some end quickly due to betrayal or unexpected death. But all will every friend will eventually die. This leads us to an interesting question: What’s your worldview, especially about eternity? This post describes why friendships with a spiritual component are the highest type of friendship. It also helps show how your worldview can impact all of your relationships.
Before I continue, let me provide a few disclaimers.
First, this question does not mean you and your good friends must be in alignment with every belief and viewpoint. But I do believe that the most authentic friendship –what I call GodBuddies, needs a spiritual component that helps men think about eternity and their legacy.
Second, in this post, I’m not going down the deep rabbit hole of sociology, comparative religions of the world, or viewpoints such as creationism, intelligent design, and evolution (here is an article that compares some). However, I will provide a very basic explanation of the differences between the “Cultural” and “Christian” worldviews that many people have these days.
Third, I also do not write this to convince you to change your viewpoint to match mine as a believer in a Triune God and follower of Jesus Christ. There is no judgment for having different beliefs than me. We can still be friends!
Lastly, I simply provide the following as a starting point for why I believe the best and highest level of friendships include a spiritual aspect that helps men become better men; something we greatly need in the world today.
So let’s begin.
Sociology: The Study of Human Societies
The dictionary defines sociology as the systematic study of society and social interaction. It is derived from the Latin word socius (companion) and the Greek word logos (speech or reason), which together mean “reasoned speech about companionship”. See the connection to friendship?
Sociologists study all aspects and levels of society made up of different people, jobs, values, and social classes who interact and reside in a definable area to create a culture based on shared practices, values, beliefs, norms, and artifacts. In a broad sense, societies are melting pots of people, thoughts, and beliefs which guide a civilization to function properly.
Why Sociology Matters
All societies include elements of philosophy, religion, mythology, and politics which compete for dominance until one (sometimes but rarely more) inevitably emerges to order and unify the society. The dominant view becomes what guides people’s morality about what is the “right” and “wrong” way to behave to help them survive.
History shows that no surviving society can function without some unifying system of thought. Many societies never recover, such as the Roman Empire, the Maya civilization, and the inhabitants of Easter Island. Sadly, futurists predict a similar scenario for America, probably due to economic decline, oil shock, military misadventure, World War III, or a continual social decline.
American Worldviews: Cultural or Christian
Two basic trains of thought shape how humanity behaves in America; our moral compass, per se. One, based on Judaism and Christianity, and another called the Cultural or Secular.
Christianity believes people sin by “missing the mark” of God’s original designs and possess an awareness that our sinful behaviors affect us personally and how we treat others. We believe that God placed the desire for good into every human being but all of us have a hole in our hearts due to the “original sin” of Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden. To paraphrase the philosopher, Blaise Pascal, sin is “a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.”
Culuralists believe that human reason is the path to progress. They believe behavior is determined by external forces like habits, customs, expectations, education, or income. It may not believe in the concept of sin at all, but that freedom of thought and conscience will order society based on natural consequences. It favors individual freedom and that only freedom from the law can create equality and proper norms.
Likewise, Secularism is a movement away from otherworldliness to life on earth. They believe that group cohesion is more inclined to judge the morality of actions. Most secularists classify themselves as agnostics (neither believe nor disbelieve in a god or religious doctrine) or atheists (don’t believe in the existence of a god or divine being). Some secularists actually believe in a faith or religion but regard it as a private matter for the home and place of worship and the government should remain blind to religion.
Some even mix these viewpoints. Those who say they believe in Christ but conform to the current societal norms are considered “Cultural Christians.”
What About Eternity?
This difference between Cultural/Secularism and Christianity is where their worldviews and behaviors collide.
Christians can influence cultural norms by being counter-cultural. We are called to enact values about life in a loving community and practice personal morality so the entire civilization thrives. Our worldview is biblical, based on the death and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We believe that all people (believers or not) are created equal and that our souls last for eternity. We also believe that God became human as Jesus, who lived among us and showed us the way to live during our time on earth. As His disciples, we live to know and honor God, our Creator, do good that overcomes evil, bring joy and hope when there is sadness and despair, and serve others in need rather than living only for ourselves. We think about our legacy and the next life in Heaven with Jesus.
Cultural or secular beliefs are that religion should not be involved with or influence ordinary social and political activities. Most feel every human activity and every human value is understood in light of the present time. What matters is now and only now, which changes as the culture shifts. The culture says “YOLO” (You Only Live Once) so they go get what they can now, regardless of who they impact so long as they receive immediate pleasure. Culturalists or many secularists remain skeptical of anything about God. They make decisions and plans within the closed arena of their time alive. They flatly deny eternity or don’t care since they will be dead. Their knowledge of the beyond is blocked or completely absent so they have no confines in this present world.
Is America Cultural and Christian?
These days, it’s difficult to isolate America’s dominant worldview because our culture is so diverse. Diversity makes our country great. We live in a free and open society where debate exists and is (mostly) healthy.
But these opposing worldviews are at odds not just in society, politics, and the church, but even within ourselves. Submission to God’s commandment (or anyone’s laws for that matter) generally goes against our individualism. Our desire to live in unbridled autonomy vies for power inside us. When we act upon this desire, we sin.
Most people agree that our society is no longer based on a religious system. So we ask: “What worldview shapes American culture? Is it religious? Is it philosophy or mythology? Does politics, nationalism, or patriotism shape its worldview? Is our worldview based on Humanism? Existentialism? How about “Culturism”? Can’t multiple worldviews coexist peacefully, or does there even need to be one dominant philosophy?
Your answer shapes your personal worldview, which shapes the way you live. It also impacts your relationships, especially the goals for your life and your friendships.
What is a Spiritual Friendship?
Aelred’s treatise, On Spiritual Friendship insists we need to test our beliefs about friendship with Scripture. The book is a series of dialogues in which three monks join Aelred to examine their ideas about friendship in light of their Christian faith. He posits that friendship is based on shared goals, and distinguishes between three different kinds of friendship:
- Carnal (based on the shared pursuit of pleasure);
- Worldly (based on mutual advantage); and
- Spiritual (grounded in shared discipleship).
This division of friendship is not original to Aelred. The Greek philosopher, Aristotle also drew similar distinctions in his book, Nicomachean Ethics (about which I wrote in The Philosophy of Friendship earlier in this series). Aristotle also defines three friendship types, considering “friendships of the good” as the highest achievement:
- The sake of a benefit (utility)
- Mutual pleasure (non-sexual enjoyment)
- Shared values (friendship of the good)
For both of these deep thinkers, the first two types of friendships are contemporary since they are devoid of a spiritual component. In these third types, friends encourage and sustain each other by following Jesus Christ. Their friendship is based on jointly responding to God’s call to love Him first and to love others (Mark 12:30-31). Their life models that of Jesus Christ who “loves always” (Proverbs 17:17).
Friendships of Pleasure and Success
Today, many younger people falsely believe that the highest form of friendship is one of pleasure. Those who pursue pleasure will usually find others who share this same pursuit; sometimes at the expense of “the good.”
Many older people falsely believe the highest forms of good are found in worldly success, such as acquiring wealth and accumulating power. They mostly think of themselves first, and not of others. Those who value worldly success will form relationships based on personal gain or mutual advantage.
In both age groups, they either pursue pleasure or success (or both) above all in their friendships. They may also completely ignore God’s laws and commandments, or only follow the ones that fit their needs.
Do “Good Friends” Have To Be Spiritual?
There is a common perception that so long as someone leads a generally good life, they will get into Heaven. They do good, give money, and are generally nice to people. But this leaves us with a very interesting question, “Don’t all good people go to heaven?”
This question presupposes a number of points:
- There is a God Who created Heaven.
- That God exists and that He is all-loving.
- There is “good” and “evil” since “bad” people need punishment, but most people are generally “good” and, therefore, entitled to Heaven.
- There is a “hell” that is only for a marginal few who are responsible for particularly evil acts.
- Entrance into Heaven is on the basis of merit (our works) rather than God’s forgiveness and grace. Biblically speaking, a position of good standing with God is not by your good deeds and behaviors, but by grace through Christ alone.
The reality is some good people don’t feel it’s important to think about eternity. Once they die, Heaven or hell doesn’t matter. But why does it matter?
What About Your Soul?
Remember earlier, I wrote that the Bible reminds us that all people are created equally and that our souls last for eternity. Ever wonder what happens to your soul when you leave this earth?
Some people suggest that tormented souls are reincarnated to cause a life of trouble for many people. For others, a deep interior torment and difficulty of life are due to their current sins. Some argue that it’s narrow-minded of God to provide only one way to Heaven. But in light of the Bible’s view of mankind’s rebellion in the Garden (See Genesis 3), you can confidently say it’s actually very broadminded that God provides us with a way to Heaven through Jesus. All we have to do is believe.
You may not know the answer to any of these questions until you see God face-to-face. For me, I choose to believe.
All that said, men must recognize each type of friendship for its proper place in their life. As I wrote in the introduction for New Year; New Types of Friends and subsequent posts with Examples of Real-life Friendships, every man needs several archetypes among his inner circle of closest friends:
- The Mentor
- The Wingman/Bachelor
- The Handyman
- The Fitness Buff
- The Work Pal
- The GodBuddy
Now, not every one of your friends will want to include a spiritual aspect. This doesn’t mean you should lower the standards for your friends and for yourself. It also doesn’t mean you drop your good friends or love your former friends any less.
This simply means that you have found friends who desire a deeper, more authentic friendship as GodBuddies. These are friendships with a spiritual component. GBs are men who also think about the impact on their souls and keep an eternal mindset as their top priority. These are men who help each other become better men…just as God designed them.
The next-to-last post of the series will describe my three-part formula that helps turn good friends into God Buddies. I will finish with a post that summarizes the entire series.