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"Performance-Based Relationships Just Don't Work"

Updated: Apr 26, 2021

The problem with performance-based relationships is that they simply don’t work. They don’t work in marriage, in friendships, in church and especially in our relationship with God. In a performance-based relationship one party implies that if you want my acceptance, my approval, my love or for me to even tolerate you then you will have to meet my expectations, meet my demands, measure up, toe the line, fulfill some quota, satisfy my requirements or act the way I want you to act. If not, I will withhold my love, my affections my respect and my commitment. This type of relationship not only doesn’t work. It is even counterproductive. The problem with the imposed tyranny of performance, regardless of the source, is that it inevitably sets in motion the dynamics of the law. It can be as simple as the private expectations of one party towards another. The law can only state what we must do in order to escape punishment or to be accepted. Its motivating principle is the fear of failure and the consequences thereof. The problem with the mechanics of the law is that it can only demand. It can’t enable. It can’t impart the power to “perform” or “measure up”. The law can only demand that we “do this or don’t do that”. It may pressure us to go through the outward motions of obedience out of fear and coercion but it can’t create a responsive heart that has been motivated out of love. It can produce a grudging resentment that “has to” but it can’t produce a joyful spirit that “wants to”. In fact performance based relationships are joy killers. The dynamics of the law always set us up for failure because they inevitably expose our inability to live up to its demands no matter how hard we try. Furthermore, the “Fruit of the Spirit” can never thrive in the intimidating environment of performance expectations. The relationship nurturing ingredients of love, acceptance, forgiveness, gentleness, kindness, patience, tolerance, compromise, mercy, longsuffering and hope can never prosper in an atmosphere charged with tyranny of fear, coercion, disapproval and threat of rejection. What it will produce is the bad fruit of resentment, insecurity, a sense of inadequacy, anger, self-doubt, discouragement, disillusionment, futility, frustration and failure. Rather than stimulating genuine love the pressures of a performance-based relationship end up sucking the very life out of the relationship. It can’t impart life - only death. As the scriptures affirm; “The letter of the law kills but the Spirit gives life.”If a relationship is based upon performance expectations, that relationship is destined to experience failure and frustration. The “Fruit of The Spirit” and the redeeming virtues of love can never thrive in that kind of negative and counterproductive environment. If that’s the kind of relationship you have in a marriage with a spouse or a marriage with Him it won’t produce good fruit. Laying out a set of performance ultimatums will not simulate love. Demanding love will not produce, love, kindness, tolerance, gentleness, mercy, patience, longsuffering, goodness or joy.

If this is the legalistic kind of relationship you have with God, your pastor’s yoke, the expectation of fellow believers or the demands which a performance driven church has placed upon your shoulders it won’t work. It will only produce discouragement, resentment, exhaustion and eventual burnout. Our relationship with God was never intended to be a revised Ten Commandments, a new set of spiritual rules and regulations, a legalistic list of religious “do’s” and “don’t’s”, the demands to meet our daily quota of spiritual disciplines, the pressure of performance expectations or the Martha-like resentment of scurrying around the kingdom to serve Jesus. It was meant to be a rich relationship birthed by grace, nurtured in grace and sustained by His amazing grace.

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