Warning: Performance Standards Could be Destroying your Relationships

I was disturbed recently after hearing a fellow Christian share some less than favorable opinions about our ministry. The gist of the criticism was that we are not as concerned as we should be about “right living.” (An accusation I would wholeheartedly deny.)

It wasn’t just disturbing because we were on the receiving end of the accusation. I was disturbed in a good way, because it forced me to deal with my tendency to do the same thing.

An unfortunate reality of people is that we love to compare performance.

Why do we struggle with this so much?

It starts early in life. Study hard, get good grades. If you get good grades, you get promoted. Perform at the top level among your peers and be offered nice scholarships and get into the best schools. Get an impressive education… get an impressive job. Impressive jobs lead to an impressive resume which leads to even more advancement. And so the story continues.

What do all of these have in common? Performance and self-merit. “I worked for something, therefore I deserve something.”

While Scripture is completely in favor of hard work and doing your best, we should be careful not to allow the ethic of hard work and merit creep into our understanding of the gospel. We have to resist and destroy any notion of a performance based faith that says, “If I do the right things, I will be accepted.”

The beauty of the gospel tells us that even though we are still sinners, in Christ, we are perfectly accepted and righteous. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” On the cross, God treated our sin as if it belonged to Christ. Christ took our sin on himself, taking the punishment we deserve. Why? So we might become righteous, so the righteousness of Christ would be given to us.

So, the gospel doesn’t tell us how to live so we can deserve something. It’s just the opposite. It tells us that we could never perform well enough to ever deserve anything at all. As Tim Keller says, God’s grace is for people “who admit their failure to perform and who acknowledge their need for a Savior.”

The implications for our relationships are staggering.

A healthy understanding of the gospel prevents us from ever feeling “morally superior.” The more we become aware of our own sin and imperfections, the more we appreciate grace. The more we appreciate grace, the more we can chill out about other people’s imperfections. We will stop the spiritual comparisons. Our pride will decrease and our attitudes towards others become more gracious. Our tendency to look down on others will diminish. We will no longer think or act as though we are self-righteous (righteous because of my behavior/performance.) Most importantly, Christ will be exalted because we recognize that our righteousness comes through Him and Him alone.

How have you seen this in your own life? Either on the giving or receiving end or performance based religion?