The KOG is Within You
By Eric Mai
Tolstoy published The Kingdom of God Is Within You in 1894 at age 66 after forsaking his riches for a peasant’s lifestyle.
The Russian government in the late 19th century frequently used force and violence through its courts, police, and military. It was during this time that Tolstoy was deeply moved by Matthew 5:38-42, the verse where Jesus commands us to “turn the other cheek”. Tolstoy interprets this as a charge to refrain from all forms of violence (including force and economic coercion) at all costs – even in cases of defense or punishment. Tolstoy saw the military as particularly tragic because it teaches well-meaning civilians that practicing violence is acceptable, even laudable.
To Tolstoy, the use of violence and force is so pervasive that the church should be focused solely on advancing nonviolence. Tolstoy chastises the church for concocting legalistic rules and irrelevant rites which distract from Jesus’ words, causing Christianity to be misunderstood. True Christianity, as Tolstoy sees it, necessitates social, political and religious revolution.
Tolstoy writes that the truth of Christian nonviolence and compassion is written on all men’s hearts, and all who sincerely consider it will know that it is true. As the book’s title implies, the proof of this truth is that people don’t need to be convinced of it by external means – the truth already resides within everyone.
Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi were significantly influenced by The Kingdom of God Is Within You. In fact, Tolstoy and Gandhi corresponded extensively about nonviolence after Gandhi read the book.
Tolstoy’s passion is clearly felt through his writing and his ideas are even more relevant now than when they were written. The Kingdom of God Is Within You opens the readers eyes to myriad injustices which have become commonplace. I highly recommend it!
You can follow Eric on Twitter at @mrericmai. Responses to his recommendation can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.