Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Dating: Good Or Bad Fruit?

By Kristen Leigh Evensen
What is your dating relationship producing?
[Spoiler alert!] In a season one episode of Downton Abbey, we see a classic example of "good girl falls for bad boy". The tall, dark, notorious footman, Thomas, has conivingly convinced the innocent kitchen maid, Daisy, that he is worth trusting. Naturally, sweet Daisy falls for the bad boy, her emotions overtaking her reason. Thomas, however, feels absolutely nothing for her, using her for his own evil, twisted purposes.

But she falls for his dirty schemes. She falls so hard that she begins to lie for him. More than once. She spats unkind words at the people she loves all because Thomas dislikes them. And ultimately she begins to lose a sense of her identity, morals and values altogether. 

Daisy eventually busts. Her good-natured heart cannot handle the negative results of her time spent with Thomas. She eventually frees herself and tells the truth to those she had wronged.

Have you ever been in a situation like Daisy's? Or rather, a relationship?

I think a very important question to be asking ourselves when dating is, "What is this relationship producing?" If our dating relationships are intended to be responses to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then certain traits will distinguish them as such. Let's call these traits "fruit", and let's look at a passage from Luke to unpack the importance of fruit, itself:

"A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. 44 A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thornbushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes. 45 A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart." (Luke 6)

Just as a tree is identified by its fruit, so a relationship's virtue or vice is identified by what it produces, both in the couple and in each individual person. Fruit, then, acts as an identifier. When picking a shiny, red apple from a tree, we can very confidently state that the tree is an "apple tree".

But what about your relationship? When you examine its fruit, what is identified?

According to Galatians 5, there is a certain kind of spiritual fruit we should see being produced:

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. 26 Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.

Because we are in Jesus Christ, we have been given the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. And the Holy Spirit produces unique, set-apart fruit within us! This fruit identifies who we are, and whose we are. Notice, though, that the fruit of the Spirit is not limited to our individual lives: "...let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives".

The Spirit's leading is also tantamount to our dating relationships because then, and only then, will we produce fruit that is lasting, good, and built on a firm foundation. 

I remember the moment when I once realized that a relationship of mine was not producing the fruit of the Spirit in me. At first it saddened me and shocked me. But eventually, there was freedom that came with this understanding, a deep knowing that Christ had given me the power to realize this--all because of the Spirit dwelling in me! When we allow the Spirit to lead us in our dating relationships, we "won't be doing what [the] sinful nature craves" (v.16). The sinful nature produces bad fruit, while the Spirit-led nature produces good fruit!


Here are a few questions we can ask to determine 
what fruit our dating relationships are producing:

Am I being led forth in peace? A very wise friend recently reminded me that the peace of God is the fruit of pursuing Him in everything we do. If we are truly seeking Christ and walking in righteousness, then He will give us deep peace if good fruit is yielded! Paul says in Philippians 4:  "...Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you."

Am I compromising in any way? If a relationship is causing us to brush aside our convictions and values in Christ, then good fruit is most likely not being produced. In Jesus we have "nailed the passions and desires of [our] sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there". A relationship should encourage us to be Spirit-led, not urge us into compromise. This could mean anything from physical and emotional boundaries, to brushing aside other equally important relationships.   

Are we serving one another in love? Mutual submission is key to any relationship, whether between family members, friends, or in dating. "Don't look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too" (Philippians 2:4). But service is a two-way street, and dating is an excellent way to see if both parties are willing to serve the other in love. The fruit of the Spirit is full of loving service: "Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another" (v. 26).

Does this relationship encourage community and accountability? "A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken" (Ecclesiastes 4:12). We need the other important relationships in our lives to be strengthened consistently, especially during dating. Our family members and closest friends know us best and can speak into our lives. Isolation rarely produces good fruit. Is your relationship encouraging community?

Does this relationship encourage our walks with God? "Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need" (Matthew 6:33). The first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord with everything in us. This is priority number one. Our dating should remain in right standing to this priority!

As a tree is identified by its fruit, so the foundation of our dating relationships will be identified by what is produced. 

What is your relationship producing? 

Father in Heaven, You relate to us perfectly. You made us to relate to You first and foremost, and then to one another. Thank you! Lead us by Your Spirit in every part of our lives, including our dating relationships. Lead us in peace, teach us to mutually serve, and provide us with community to spur us on to completion. Bear the fruit of the Spirit in us.

Amen.

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