Joy can be real only if people look on their life as a service, and have a definite object in life outside themselves and their personal happiness. – Leo Tolstoy-
Leo Tolstoy is a name that most people know from his brilliant books War and Peace and Anna Karenina. However, I believe that his most important works were written after these and after he experienced a true conversion experience. Just like the Apostle Paul, he had a crisis in his personal life. He had not lived in a Godly manner. He came to question everything about his own life and mankind in general. He felt empty inside and knew he must find a purpose to life or he had no reason to carry on. He found his answer in the Bible in Luke 17:21:
Tolstoy felt overwhelmed with man’s inhumanity to his fellow man, especially as it took the shape of violence and murder. In his book, The Kingdom of God Is Within You, he advocates a non-violent society, a subject that Gandhi advanced after reading Tolstoy’s book while he was imprisoned. Banned by the government of Russia, the book was published in Germany. Tolstoy believed that there were two possibilities for mankind – to live for gratification and material security or to live for the advancement of the spiritual soul. He wrote of these choices in his masterpiece The Death of Ivan Ilych, which is well worth the time to read. It is the heartbreaking story of one man’s life and death. The protagonist, Ivan Ilych, lived his life for purely material gratification and status in Russian society. He doesn’t realize the fallacy of this until death is imminent, and sadly, when he died, his family still believed the lie.
Tolstoy lived his beliefs. He gave away his material possessions and sought to live as Jesus advocated in the Sermon on the Mount. At age 83, he denounced his rank and privileges and put on the dress of the peasant. He gave all his possessions to his family and peasants and set out on foot. He later caught a chill and died in a stationmaster’s house. By his death, his fellow Russians took note of the changes in his life after finding Jesus Christ.
Tolstoy is not without criticism for his beliefs and philosophies, as are most people who want to take a stand for Jesus Christ. Read through his later books and make that determination for yourself. I don’t think you will regret it!