The Common Good

When Grace Backfires

In 1958 the Teddy Bears released the song "To know him is to love him," which might as well have been called "To know, know, know, him is to love, love, love, him," since that's the way everybody remembers it. Either way, you get the idea: There's this great guy out there, and the closer you get to him, the better you're going to feel about him and, in all likelihood, the better he's going to feel about spending time with you. After all, who doesn't like being loved for who they really are?

Of course, there is no rule that says you can't choose instead to get close to a lousy person, no matter how mean, lazy, stupid, violent, or unbelievably selfish he or she might be. On the contrary, there are plenty of rules saying we should do just that, in the name of Jesus. And there are plenty of stories and proverbs suggesting that when we do, wonderful things can happen. And so they do, especially early on in the relationship.

The problem is that to love, love, love a lousy person over a long period of time is

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