When I grew up on our Central Iowa farm home, I learned to eat many and various kinds of foods. We lived next door to my grandparents on our family farmstead so I was exposed to two very different styles of cooking. My Mom was from Idaho and she was the master of casseroles. she had a thousand ways to take left-overs and combine them in various ways to make all kinds of delicious entrees. My grandma on the other hand was from Czechoslovakia and she made “Old Country dishes.” Duck and sauerkraut, goose and fried potatoes and Hubichka, a home-made bread with chunks of ham baked inside. There were other foods for which I could not pronounce the names. And of course we had a big garden where we grew fresh vegetables in the summer. My mom and grandma would can and freeze a lot of vegetables, fruit and even meat. Pickled Pig’s Feet was one of my favorites.

I was not a picky eater. If it was on my plate, I ate it. My younger brother was a different story. Dave would gag at the sight of things like creamed broccoli or cauliflower stew. He would run out of the house when Grandma would make toast and use her home-churned butter. The only reason he ran was that the butter had a slight tinge of green coloring. Our cows were pastured and eating green grass would give their milk a lime green coloration. For some reason, Dave just couldn’t stomach eating toast with green butter.

I remember sitting at the table, watching with amusement my Mom or Grandma doing all they could to coerce Dave into eating some delicacy from the kitchen. The conversations would start: “Dave, if you eat your creamed peas and carrots, you can have an extra piece of pie. Dave, if you eat the minced meat, you will grow big and strong. Dave, if you just try a little of the goose, we’ll run in to Montour later and get you some gum.” Finally the big guns would come out. My Dad would enter the conversation: “Dave, you will try the fried chicken whether you like the lard gravy or not, I don’t care if you have to sit here all day.”  Usually this would win the day but there were time that I had no one to play with outside because my brother was in his third hour of sitting at the table with cold fried chicken and lard gravy.

There is a point to this and here it is. Our world revolves around the principle, “If you do this, then you will get that. But if you don’t do this, then that will not happen.”   

If you get good grades, you will pass the class and make Mom and Dad happy. If you pass the class you will graduate. If you graduate you will get a good job. If you get a good job then you will make money. If you make money you can own a nice car. If you own a nice car you’ll attract a pretty girl. If you treat her nice she may later become your wife but if you hurt her feelings, she will dump you. If you eventually marry this attractive girl, then the guys at work will look at you differently and show you respect. If you are shown enough respect you will get a promotion. If you get a promotion, you are in a position to make more money for the company. If that happens, you’ll get more promotions, drive nicer cars, live in bigger houses and make Mom and Dad even happier, but if you don’t…and on and on it goes.

Tullian Tchividjian’s book One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World says this, “Most of the time, conditionality makes our lives easier and less confusing. If we can simply find the right set of conditions to meet and then meet them, our happiness is secured. ‘Give me three steps to a happy marriage, and I can guarantee myself a happy marriage…that is IF I can simply follow the three steps.’ But the problem comes when things fall apart. For every ‘If you do’ there is an ‘If you don’t’. When we can’t meet our end of the bargain, there is a threat or a punishment.”

This is why we need God’s GRACE. Paul Zahl defines grace this way:

Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is being loved when you are unlovable…The cliché definition of grace is “unconditional love.” It is a true cliché, for it is a good description of the thing…Grace is irrational in the sense that it has nothing to do with weights and measures. It has nothing to do with my intrinsic qualities or so-called “gifts” (whatever they may be). Grace reflects a decision on the part of the Giver, the one who loves, in relation to the receiver, the one who is loved, that negates any qualifications the receiver may personally hold…Grace is ONE WAY LOVE.   

Tchividjian goes on, “…unconditional love relieves the pressure, forgives our failure, and replaces our fear with faith…it sounds too good to be true. Longing for hope in the world of hype, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the news we have been waiting for all our lives. God loves real people like you and me, which He demonstrated by sending His real Son to set real people free.”