Conflict seems an almost inevitable part of human life. Even those who try to please everyone eventually get into conflict when the people they want to please are pulling in different directions. "You can't please all the people all the time." Sometimes no matter what choice you make, you're going to upset someone--even if you make no choice at all.
Jesus got into conflict. Most of the time, Jesus didn't go looking for the conflict. It came to him. In that sense, Jesus is not a model for "in your face" zealotry. Conflict seems inevitable, but the only time Jesus sought out conflict was when he threw over the tables in the temple.
Nevertheless, those who like conflict sometimes think they are simply following Jesus' example. For example, there is the rebel, who uses Jesus as a model for being anti-establishment. Jesus "stuck it to the man." But perhaps they miss that Jesus ate with "the man" for a while until "the man" decided he didn't like Jesus.
Others use Jesus as a model of being against liberalism. It's hard to know even how to make sense of this one. The Pharisees were far more conservative than Jesus was. And Jesus' objection to religious leaders largely had to do with their neglect of the poor and disempowered--hardly a position we associate with conservatism today.
When John the Baptist was arrested, it was Jesus' time to take over the mission of proclaiming the kingdom of God. Obviously the crowds liked most of what he had to say. But he also came into conflict with others as he furthered the mission. He came into conflict with those who wanted to follow the letter of the law. He came into conflict with the leaders of Israel. He eventually came into conflict with the state. In this chapter I want to look at Jesus as a model for conflict.