So today’s million-dollar question is this: Can a butcher and a vegetarian be friends?This (slightly absurd) question has been rolling around inside my head for the last couple of weeks. For whatever reason, all at once, I’ve found myself wrestling through challenges to several close relationships. And while it’s entirely possible that I am just a very difficult person to get along with, I prefer to think that the issue lies more in the fact that I’m a human being interacting with other human beings. And that my relationships, like everyone else’s, are often interrupted by differing opinions, dreams, beliefs, and values.

I’ve also realized that we human beings have funny ways of resolving these interpersonal tensions. Most of us end up doing one of two things. We either simply avoid the relationship altogether and make friends only with people who are like us and affirm our value systems. Or we rally the troops and come out fighting. Either, the butcher and the vegetarian simply never meet; or the vegetarian stages a protest outside the butcher’s shop, while the butcher inside makes snide remarks about grass-eating radicals.

I’ll be honest, I’ve done both. But I’m coming to realize that there’s something wrong with both as well. While these responses are all too human, they are not at all Christian. Because usually the thing that’s driving them, first and foremost, is fear.

And the simple truth is that fear is not a Christian virtue.

In fact, just the opposite is the case. Our faith actually frees us from fear and empowers us to live lives marked by courage and openness. Our faith looks to Jesus and realizes that if ever there were a relationship doomed by differences, it is His with us. Our faith also recognizes that He made a better way and understands that this way is love.

So it is love that we must bring to our relationships, not only those that are easy for us, but especially to those that are difficult. And lest you, along with the butcher, think me a wild-eyed hippie, I’m not talking about that superficiality that masquerades as love and minimizes the differences between people. I’m talking about a courageous love that looks the differences square in the face and commits to wrestling through them together. A love that says I’m willing to hear and I’m willing to speak. A love that casts out the fear that drives us to silence and keeps us from honestly sharing ourselves with each other.

Even if, in the end, we don’t agree.

And yes, I’ll quickly recognize that differences between people can at some point preclude them from traveling through life together. (As Tevye reminds us, "A bird may love a fish, but where would they make their home?") Still, this is a far cry from having simple love-filled relationships with people who are different from us. In the end, we may not be able to agree, we may have profound and honest objection to each other’s choices, but as Christians, we will always be able to love.

And that’s my final answer.