This is one of my favourite stories from Deep Roots.
“Le Petit Baton Rouge”
The strong smell of hot peppers and vinegar stings your eyes and nostrils when arriving at Avery Island, Louisiana.
You’re at the home of Tabasco Hot Sauce, south of Lafayette, Louisiana.
Avery Island is not an actual island. It is a rounded hill rising above the surrounding flat marsh. Its elevation is due to the underground salt dome beneath the “island.”
This salt dome led to development of the world’s most famous hot sauce. Salt is one the three major ingredients in Tabasco; the other two are vinegar and red peppers.
Home of numerous waterfowl species, hundreds of alligators, and beautiful plant life, Avery Island is a must-see destination for visitors to our diverse state. In addition to the flora and fauna of “The Island,” no trip is complete without touring the Tabasco plant.
A tour of the facility reveals how the ingredients are harvested and mixed. In the showroom, hundreds of Tabasco products are displayed in every size and type imaginable.
Rows of the tiny two-inch-long Tabasco bottles are arranged liked soldiers awaiting the order to charge. These mini-bottles are included in every “Meal Ready to Eat” used by the military.
These military meals are commonly called “M.R.E.’s” and they contain various entrees, condiments, and drink mixes, as well as a bottle of Tabasco.
On a recent trip to Ethiopia, I saw these small Tabasco bottles for sale in the markets. An Ethiopian friend said, “Those bottles came from the M.R.E.’s supplied by your government after our recent famine. Not knowing what Tabasco is, and not able to read English, they were originally sold in the markets as ‘women’s perfume’.”
We laughed as I envisioned an Ethiopian wife applying Tabasco to her neck in anticipation of a romantic evening. I then told my African friend of the name we call the M.R.E.’s: “Meals Rejected by Ethiopians.”
A few years ago while touring the Tabasco plant at Avery Island, I saw the little red stick, or “le petit baton rouge” as it is called in French. Every Tabasco pepper picker carries one in his or her hand.
During the harvest, each worker holds the the red stick beside each pepper, ensuring the correct ripeness. This comparison process between the painted stick and the pepper results in the consistent taste of Tabasco sauce enjoyed the world over.
This stick, painted this very particular shade of red, is used as the standard for picking. The pickers carefully compare the fruit on the bush with the red stick. Only those with the correct coloration are picked—not green, not orange. Just the perfect red.
Here’s a neat application to “le petit baton rouge.” As the world looks at the followers of Jesus, they are looking for a difference in our lives that is caused by our Savior. They are not as interested in our churches, music, and preaching as they are in seeing this difference.
Here is what they are looking for: It’s a simple word called love. As folks look at our lives, they will compare us to the teachings and love of Jesus. In other words, they compare our fruit against the “le petit baton rouge” of the teachings of Jesus.
Jesus very clearly emphasized the defining mark (or color) of a Christian in John 13:34-35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
There it is: the fruit of my life as a follower of Jesus should be the color of love. A love that begins by loving those around me as in “Love one another . . . ”
But it’s also a love that refuses to stay indoors among its own kind. This “Jesus-kind of love” flows out in a ripple effect where lives are changed and enriched. Others are watching. They are using their petit baton rouges in judging and comparing our lives. But here’s the scary part: Jesus himself, the living Son of God, is also applying his red stick against our lives.
We can never come close in meeting his standard. He was perfect, is perfect, and will always be perfect. However, by growing closer and closer to Jesus… we will take on “His Color.”
… And His Color is always love. His “petit baton rouge” was not really petit (or little.) It was large—a large wooden cross—an instrument of death. And just like the Avery Island stick, it was dipped in red. The blood on that cross was from the very Son of God.
And here is the best part: He willingly went to that cross personally for you … willingly paying for your sins. What will you personally do about that?
A person has two simple choices: Embrace that love-gift of Jesus and commit your life and heart to Him personally… or walk by it rejecting the chance to be in relationship with the very Son of God.
It’s your choice. You hold the decision in your hand.
Or rather in your heart.
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.