Recently, I opened a can of baked beans – and saw a tantalizing piece of bacon on top. I expected that, because it’s there in every can of that brand of beans. It’s marketed as “Baked Beans with Bacon.” Apparently, the bacon is a selling point.
That marketing gimmick is a good lesson for us. We should always want to “put the bacon on top.” That is, we should always put our best foot forward, to lead with the positive. Like the old adage says, “You only have one chance to make a first impression.”
What I’m suggesting, however, is more than trying to impress people. Having the “bacon on top” reflects how we value others, how we treat them. With the bacon on top we’re saying, “We’re ready to please.”
Jesus shows this concern for people. Note how he often engages people: In his Sermon on the Mount, his opening focus is on blessings, not on prohibitions. When a paralytic was brought for healing, Jesus’ first words were, “Your sins are forgiven.”
If someone had injured you, Jesus advised going first to the offender to try to resolve the matter. A centurion asks Jesus to pray for his daughter’s recovery – but Jesus offers more. He goes to the man’s house to heal the girl.
How much we need such grace today. Some are outraged that their liberties are denied them by restrictive rules in today’s health crisis. The Christ-like response, however, is to understand we’re simply being asked to protect the health of others.
Some elected officials resist further governmental aide for people, businesses, or states in dire financial distress – lest it requires financial sacrifice (more taxes) from them. Instead, we put the bacon on top when we honor “e pluribus unum,” proclaiming we are one in helping each other.
Years ago, I had a staff colleague who had trouble keeping the “bacon on top.” If someone asked him if the church could do something, or if our facilities could be used for some community service, his standard answer began negatively, “Oh, that might be difficult to do.” His words conveyed a negativism that limited our ability to partner with the others. Ultimately, he learned to put “the bacon on top.” His response became, “We hope we can accommodate you. Let’s see what needs to be done.”
God’s continuing desire for us to “love our neighbor as ourselves” may never be as essential as it is today. Some of us are more “insulated” from the threats and challenges of our endangered health and staggering economy. But we’re not insulated from Christ’s plea found in the Beatitudes. Think about his words, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” Now that’s putting the “bacon on top.”
Rev. William McCartney is a retired United Methodist minister and a professor emeritus of the Methodist Theological School in Ohio.