This week I read the on-line translation of Leo Tolstoy's The Kingdom of God Is Within You. Tolstoy seeks to prove in his 1894 work that it is inconsistent with the character and teachings of Christ for any Christian to resist evil with violence. Tolstoy (1828-1910) is considered by many as the greatest novelist of all time, and his writings had tremendous influence on Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. I had not known until this week who influenced Tolstoy in his own thinking on this subject. In chapter one, entitled The Doctrine of Non-Resistance to Evil Has Been Professed by a Minority of Men from the Very Foundation of Christianity, Tolstoy credits American abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879) with writing a declaration that cemented in Tolstoy the belief that Jesus was teaching in Matthew 5:39 "that the establishment of universal peace can only be founded on the open profession of the doctrine of non-resistance to evil by violence."
"We do not acknowledge allegiance to any human government. We recognize but one King and Lawgiver, one Judge and Ruler of mankind. Our country is the world, our countrymen are all mankind. We love the land of our nativity only as we love all other lands. The interests and rights of American citizens are not dearer to us than those of the whole human race. Hence we can allow no appeal to patriotism to revenge any national insult or injury..."Regardless of one's agreement with Tolstoy or Garrison regarding non-resistance, Christians in America would do well to pause prior to this 4th of July--before any musical celebration in church or patriotic message from the pulpit--and ponder whether we are making it clear to our fellow Christians that "the kingdom to which we belong is not of this world."