I was lucky to be able to sit in on most of the Machiavelli book study group yesterday. They were examining and discussing chapters 15 and further. Two statements in The Prince struck a chord with me. The first was that virtue was doing what worked, and the second was the need to learn to do what was bad.
In the book, the desired end for a prince was maintain stable control of the state and the ongoing success of the state. Cruelty, deceit, and so on are virtues if they help the prince retain control and the state to succeed. Jesus had the goal of cultivating the emergence of the Empire of God/Heaven, a state in which the needs of every person are met, where everyone is connected by bonds of mutual love and respect. For Jesus, virtues contributed to the creation of this empire, so what others considered sins, such as healing on the Sabbath, talking to women, or gathering grain on the Sabbath were actually virtues as they contributed to the creation of the Empire of God. Like Machiavelli, for Jesus, the ends determine if the means are virtues or not.
Jesus also, by modeling this revolutionary behaviour and others, like persistent forgiveness instead of revenge, was teaching his followers to do what was considered to be bad behaviour.
Jesus and Machiavelli: same concepts, different ends — how interesting!