If you believe that Christ meant what he said literally, this means that Christ envisioned a society based on love and tolerance, one that is completely incompatible with war and all violence.
Tolstoy takes the viewpoint that "Thou shalt not murder", and that therefore all governments who wage war are directly affronting the Christian principles that should guide all life.
Tolstoy sought to separate Orthodox Russian Christianity, which was merged with the state, from what he believed was the true message of Jesus Christ, as contained in the Gospels, specifically the Sermon on the Mount.
Tolstoy presented excerpts from magazines and newspapers relating various personal experiences, and gave keen insight into the history of nonresistance as being professed by a minority of believers from the very foundation of Christianity. In particular, he confronts those who argue that such a change to a non-violent society would be disastrous with the following recourse:
Tolstoy recounted challenges by people of all classes that his views on nonresistance were wrong, but argued that no matter how the challengers tried to attack the doctrine, its essence could not be overcome. He advocated non-violence as a solution to nationalist woes and as a means for seeing the hypocrisy of the church. In reading Jesus' words in the Gospels, Tolstoy notes that the modern church is a heretical creation:
These words had profound influence on Mahatma Gandhi, who later used these ideas to stage a revolution in colonial India.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote in his autobiography The Story of My Experiments with Truth (The Story of My Experiments with Truth/Part II/Religious Ferment) that this book "overwhelmed" him and "left an abiding impression." Gandhi listed Tolstoy's book, as well as John Ruskin's Unto This Last and the poet Shrimad Rajchandra (Raychandbhai), as the three most important modern influences in his life. Reading this book opened up the mind of the world-famous Tolstoy to Gandhi, who was still a young protester living in South Africa at the time.
In 1908 Tolstoy wrote, and Gandhi read, A Letter to a Hindu, which outlines the notion that only by using love as a weapon through passive resistance could the native Indian people overthrow the colonial British Empire. This idea ultimately came to fruition through Gandhi's organization of nationwide non-violent strikes and protests during the years circa 1918-1947. In 1909, Gandhi wrote to Tolstoy seeking advice and permission to republish A Letter to a Hindu in his native language, Gujarati. Tolstoy responded and the two continued a correspondence until Tolstoy's death in 1910. The letters concern practical and theological applications of non-violence, as well as Gandhi's wishes for Tolstoy's health; before he died, Tolstoy's last letter was to Mahatma Gandhi.