3 things that I learned from a pig snout

Sometimes, crazy things happen in ministry… Here is my story.

A few years ago my wife and I were invited to dinner at the home of a new family in our church—recent immigrants from Mexico who wanted to get to know us better. When we arrived we were treated as honored guests as they attended to our every need. It goes without saying that for most pastors these types of visits are the best ones.

We were served “posole”—a traditional Mexican soup that is made with either chicken or pork. In this case, the region of Mexico this family comes from has a peculiar tradition of honoring their special guests by serving them the pig snout. Imagine my surprise when I was served a giant bowl of soup with a floating pig snout in the middle.

In my Puertorican heritage we aren’t accustomed to eating snout (as far as I’m aware, at least). I just smiled graciously and asked myself, “What do I do?” I didn’t want to disrespect them or make this couple feel bad. I didn’t want my culinary preferences to hurt these great people who had obviously worked so hard to make us feel honored in their home.

These types of situations are reflective of ministry, where sometimes pastors must stretch their cultural limitations. In order not to offend sensibilities, we might have to do things we are uncomfortable with…

That being said, allow me to share what I learned from a pig snout that evening:

#1- Everybody has different cultural perspectives. Loving people requires us to understand that everyone is different. People have different tastes and likes. I learned that we must concentrate on the things that bring us together and not make a big issue of the differences, as most differences are matters of preference and not biblically mandated.

Some people like quiet worship while others like it loud and expressive. Some like the quiet, gentle preacher while others enjoy the fire from heaven. Some like bigger churches while others enjoy the smaller, intimate settings. Either way, people have different tastes and it’s not worth feeling bad over if it’s not what I would personally like.

#2- Honor comes in many different forms. Yes, I’ll admit that many of us wouldn’t consider a pig snout to be honoring. But to this couple it was a high form of praise. I understood that although it wouldn’t be my way, I had to see beyond the physical action and into their heart.

Mary broke a bottle of perfume and washed Jesus’ feet while Solomon offered twenty-two thousand head of cattle and a hundred and twenty thousand sheep and goats. Both were acceptable to God. I learned that I must be willing to accept the good intentions of people even if it’s not particularly what I would have wanted.

#3- People are important, food is not. I once heard Matthew Barnett preach: “If we are going to be a bridge to bring people to Christ, we must be willing to be walked over.” There is always going to be a time to fulfill our own preferences. However, there are moments in which we need to do things that other people find important. Relational ministry requires that we connect with people at their points of need and interest.

There are moments that we might need to play a round of golf even though it’s not high on our to-do list. Or we need to talk about somebody’s boring job (hey, they put up with our sermons!). It’s a worthy investment if it means that somebody will come closer to God once they see us interested in them.

So what did I do with the pig snout? I did what any good husband would… I traded the bowl with my wife. It was my way of honoring her…