In a recent class, a professor of mine adapted Aristotle’s 3 types of relationships, as found in Ethics. He stated that the three types of relationships are utilitarian relationships, relationships of pleasure, and relationships of goodness.
A utilitarian relationship is as it sounds–a relationship of utility. What can you do for me? The type of relationship that you would have with your mechanic or barber. Sure, you are friendly with them, but you only see them when you need your car fixed or hair cut.
The relationship of pleasure is a relationship in which two people unity via a common interest. For instance, I am friends with a number of different people because we all enjoy running. I have another set of friends that I enjoy playing frisbee with. Another group yet with whom I discuss politics, and so on and so forth.
The last type of relationship is a relationship of goodness–a relationship in which people are good for each others souls. These are your innermost circle, the people whom you could tell anything. The type of friends that you can leave for a time and come back to as though no time has past. These are the people who are completely edifying and encouraging to you.
As a loose set of categories, I think this has merit. I can easily place any group of people into their appropriate category; what concerns me is when I consider where God falls into these categories. You see, it makes clear sense that God should be in, if not above, the relationships of goodness. God is not only characterized as Goodness (Galatians 5:22), but He knows us far better than we know ourselves. And regardless of whether or not we are intimate with God, God is all up in our business–he knows all that there is to knows about our lives.
But while God ought to hold a special place, do I not place him in lesser categories? Often I find that I am in little more than a utilitarian relationships with God. I can see it in my prayer–God give me this, deliver me from this, help me this, and so on and so forth. Now there are certainly admirable prayers and petitions to bring to God so that we may bring greater honor to His name, but how much of what I pray is really about God’s glory, and how much is self-serving?
Or, perhaps I treat God as though we have a relationship of pleasure. You see, Jesus and I like a lot of the same music, we are both really into ministry and church, and so on and so forth. Again, it is good to have shared interests with our Creator, similarly to how you would share interests with your best friends; but if there is no greater relationship than what happens at church, or than what ministries you are involved in, if there is no personal relationship with God, then God has been limited to a relationship of pleasure.
So now I find myself challenged to consider, what type of relationship do I have God? Is he just there for my use? Do we just share common interests? Or do I have a deep, personal, and intimate relationship with Him?
Similarly, am I closer to my friends than I am to my Creator?
It depends. Some days I want little from God other than what He can give me. Other days I just enjoy the church scene. And some day I experience a deep relationship with God, though I yearn for this relationship always.
What type of relationship do you have God? Is He just to be used for your good? Do you just enjoy what he can give you? Do you only share similar interests? Or do you have a life-giving, intimate relationship with Him?
God is waiting. Pursue a relationship of goodness with Him today.