Tolstoy's Novel Idea: Obey the Sermon on the Mount

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by: Steve Hickey

After two thousand years of Christianity, one might assume obedience to the Sermon on the Mount would be foundational for the Christian life and the starting point for every Christian's journey toward Christlikeness. Yet strict obedience to the Sermon on the Mount has a long history of being frowned upon-foolhardy and fanatical. One would be hard-pressed to find a section of the Bible where Christians contort themselves more to get out from underneath the demands than Matthew 5-7. Obedience has become optional, abnormal, and atypical. And sadly, very little has been written about the obedience of Leo Tolstoy, though he is, as is contended here, the most significant and influential interpreter of the Sermon on the Mount since the days of Jesus.

Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (1828-1910) is widely considered the author of the greatest novel ever written: War and Peace. However, Steve Hickey asserts Tolstoy's greatest contribution to the world was not his novels, but his novel idea: obey the Sermon on the Mount. When the greatest novelist came under the spell of the greatest sermon, the seeds of a new and sorely needed reformation were planted. After an in-depth analysis of the various aspects of his novel idea-obedience to the Sermon on the Mount-Tolstoy's Novel Idea: Obey the Sermon on the Mount envisions an obedience movement, which, sadly, is something Christendom has yet to ever really see.

Even so, Tolstoy's writings on these teachings of Jesus directly influenced Gandhi and his non-violent tactics served to liberate India from British oppression. Though Gandhi often gets the glory, in large his tactics came from Tolstoy who was simply representing the non-violent teachings of Jesus. Hickey presents Tolstoy was a vastly under-appreciated prophet of peace at the onset of a tragically bloody century of both Russian and world history. A new generation of practitioners of non-violent resistance are well-served to steep themselves in Tolstoy. Aside from Tolstoy's religious writings themselves, this book is the perfect place to start.