A Commentary by John Stott

Matthew 5:10-12. Those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake (continued).

Probably nobody has hated the ‘softness’ of the Sermon on the Mount more that Friedrich Nietzsche. Although the son and the grandson of Lutheran pastors, he rejected Christianity during his student days. His book ‘The anti-Christ’ (a title he had dared to apply to himself in his autobiographical sketch Ecce homo) is his most violent anti-Christian polemic and was written in 1888, the year before he went mad. In it he defines what is ‘good’ as ‘all that heightens the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself in man’, and what is ‘bad’ as ‘all that proceeds from weakness’. Consequently, in answer to his own question, ‘What is more harmful than any vice?’, he replies, ‘Active sympathy for the ill-constituted and week – Christianity.’ He sees Christianity as a religion of pity instead of a religion of power; so ‘nothing in our unhealthy modernity is more unhealthy than Christian pity.’ He despises ‘the Christian conception of God—God as God of the sick, God as spider, God as spirit’—a conception from which ‘everything strong, brave, masterful, proud, has been eliminated. ‘In the entire New Testament there is only one solitary figure one is obliged to respect,’ he affirms, and that is Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor. Jesus, by contract, he disdains as ‘God on the cross’, and Christianity as ‘mankind’s greatest misfortune.’ The cause of this venom is plain. The ideal that Jesus commended is the little child. He lent no support whatever to Nietzsche’s commendation of the ‘superman’. So Nietzsche repudiated the whole value-system of Jesus. ‘I condemn Christianity,’ he wrote. ‘The Christian church has left nothing untouched by its depravity, it has made of every value a disvalue.’ Instead (in the last words of his book) he called for a ‘revaluation of all values’.

But Jesus will not compromise his standards to accommodate Nietzsche, or his followers, or any of us who may unconsciously have imbibed bits and pieces of Nietzsche’s power-philosophy. In the beatitudes Jesus throws out a fundamental challenge to the non-Christian world and its outlook, and requires his disciples to adopt his altogether different set of values. As Thielicke puts it, ‘Anybody who enters into fellowship with Jesus must undergo a transvaluation of values.’

Tomorrow: Matthew 5:10-12. Those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake (continued).

The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of the Sermon on the Mount. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.