Here is a portion of the book I am writing:
The key to loving others is to fully grasp how much we are loved. In his book, What Is So Amazing about Grace, Philip Yancey recounts the story by Karen Blixen called “Babette’s Feast”: In the 1800’s in a small fishing village in Norway a man led a Lutheran sect. They were austere and other-worldly, simply enduring life on this wicked planet. They ate a daily diet of boiled cod and gruel. The leader of the group had two daughters who were very beautiful and had chances to marry but remained single to look after their aging father and because they felt that God did not want them to enjoy life. After their father died the two women tried to hold the congregation together but lacked leadership skills. Over time the group splintered. One member bore a grudge against another over a perceived wrong. There were rumors of a sexual affair between two members. Two older women had not spoken to each other in ten years. One night Babette showed up. She was a political refugee from Paris where she had been a chef in a famous restaurant. They took her in and gave her food and lodging in return for her being their cook and housekeeper. They insisted she cook only the cod and gruel. She had been there twelve years when she got word that someone had entered her name in the French lottery and she had won 10,000 Franks. Babette asked if she could give the community a feast and the sisters obliged. The members of the church, now numbering only eleven, decided to attend the feast but, because it was a “worldly pleasure”, they agreed not to comment on the food. A cavalry officer showed up the night of the feast and joined them. The food and drink was superb! They had several courses of the finest fish, foul, meat, vegetables, fruit, bread and deserts washed down with the best wines money could buy. The villagers, according to the agreement were silent during the meal but the General constantly praised the food and drink. At the end of the evening he gave a message on grace. “We have all of us been told that grace is to be found in the universe. But in our human foolishness and shortsightedness we imagine divine grace to be finite…But the moment comes when our eyes are opened, and we see and realize that grace is infinite. Grace, my friends, demands nothing from us but that we shall await it with confidence and acknowledge it in gratitude.” The story ends with two scenes. The members of the church have joined hands outside. It appears that they have received the gift of the feast and it has inspired them to come together in love and gratitude. They are seen singing the old songs with a new-found enthusiasm. The last scene takes place in the kitchen as the two sisters’ comment to Babette that they enjoyed the feast and they are sorry that she will be leaving. Babette informs them that she won’t be going back to France because she is out of money. She spent the franks that she won on the feast. For years these followers of Luther had heard sermons on grace yet had tried to earn God’s favor by their pieties and renunciations. The feast brought grace to them. It was “the meal of a lifetime lavished on those who had in no way earned it.” Grace came to that community the way it always comes: Absolutely free with no strings attached. When we fully experience God’s unconditional love through His amazing grace then we can give it to others. We can forgive and lavish our love on people because it has been done to us.