A line from the Gospel reading from John appointed for today’s Daily Office struck me. In the wake of Jesus’ invitation to the thirsty to come to him and drink, people in the crowd offer rival and incompatible interpretations of his true identity. To which the evangelist offers this brief observation:
“So there was a division in the crowd because of him” (John 7:43).
These words resonate against the background of conflict and division taking place within the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. It’s a tragic irony. For it’s the same Jesus we all follow and we all respond to. But instead of bringing us together, our understandings of discipleship and our responses to Jesus’ claims divide us and create conflict.
It’s a story that repeats itself in every age. Just look at the conflict between Peter and Paul. Or the split between the Church in the East and the West. Or the splintering of the Church in the wake of the Reformation.
Jesus divided people from the start. And from the beginning, conflict has been central to the Church’s identity.
Why should it be any different in our time?