Several months ago, two ICM staff members, Burt and Geof, traveled to India to meet with a beloved Church-growth partner. As they awoke in their Indian hotel and began preparing for a long day of church visits, Burt asked the partner if he would like a cup of tea.
“I don’t drink tea,” he replied.
Burt was shocked. An Indian man who doesn’t drink tea! It was unthinkable. India has the best tea in the world, and it is offered in every home as a sign of hospitality to guests. Burt asked him, “What do you mean?” He replied:
“I minister in the very poorest villages in India. Many of the people I visit have nothing, yet custom requires them to keep some tea to offer their guests. Tea is expensive, and I do not feel right taking the only thing of value they have. I visit many homes, and someone might accuse me of taking advantage of the people.
“Yet when they offer it, I cannot say, ‘You are too poor for me to accept,’ because it would humiliate them. And it would insult their hospitality if I refused them and then accepted tea from wealthier friends.
“So to remedy the problem, I decided to stop drinking tea altogether. Now when a poor family offers it to me, I can tell them I don’t drink tea, and it is not a lie.”
In 1 Corinthians 9, the Apostle Paul addresses the rights of ministers, including the right to food and drink. Yet he says, [W]e did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ (vs 12b).
Like Paul, our partner in India gave up a significant cultural custom to advance the gospel. At some point, our faithfulness to the Cross asks all of us to give up something to see God’s Kingdom come.
What is it asking of you?