Our Lord taught that if a person forces you to travel with him one mile you should go two miles. (Matthew 5:41) A Jew forced by an occupying Roman soldier to function as a porter for equipment would have been resentful. No one appreciates forced labor. Yet Jesus is saying that not only should a person comply, but that the individual should do more than required.
Jesus would like us to move beyond doing what we have to do. We who are under grace may show grace by giving to others what they do not necessarily merit. We do well to remember the words of Wayne Dyer, “It’s never crowded along the extra mile.” With all of this open space, how can we move forward with an extra effort for God?
We may see life an opportunity. In the book of Proverbs we read, “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Come back later; I’ll give it tomorrow’ – when your now have it with you.” (Proverbs 3:27-28) The time to act on behalf of others is when the opportunity is presented to us. Bishop Phillip Brooks expressed it this way: “If there is any good that I can do or any kindness I can show let me do it quickly, for I shall not pass this way again.” The opportunities for service we have come from our wonderful God.
We may think more of others than ourselves. “…in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3) This, according to Paul in Philippians 2, is the attitude of Jesus. Those who think more highly of others than themselves do not consider people to be interruptions. As Henri Nouwen once observed, “This is the great conversation in our life: to recognize and believe that the many unexpected events are not just disturbing interruptions of our projects, but the way in which God molds our hearts and prepares us.” Our great God is doing a new work in us every day. Our humility is the door we open to let Him in.
Consequently, we may willingly take the role of a servant. On the night Jesus washed the feet of the disciples he said, “I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.’” (John 13:16) Jesus told the twelve disciples that evening to wash one another’s feet, and that they would be blessed if they did what they had learned. God desires to bless us, and our servanthood is the platform He uses for bestowing such blessings.
How we feel about others is a determining factor. We must be compassionate, not competitive. In the words of George Washington Carver, “How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.” If we see people as adversaries to our happiness we’ll do the minimum. If we see people as the recipients of God’s love we’ll give an extra effort to help them. We will one day be in the shoes of the people we willingly assist.
A guiding principle in going the second mile is the idea that we should treat others as we would like to be treated. Jesus said, “‘Do to others as you would have them do to you.’” (Luke 6:31) After a recent tire change I noticed that my spare was low on air. When I was about to put air in it I had trouble removing the cap on the tire’s valve stem. A man jumped out of his truck and helped me get it off so I could fill up the tire with air. I was so grateful for his help it made me want to help everyone I met that day. I wanted to treat others with the same extra effort I had been shown. We go the extra mile when the needs of others come before our own needs. Sin and its consequences were the greatest need for humanity.
So Jesus went the second mile for us. In II Corinthians 5:21 we read,“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”A sinless man bore our sin and its penalty so that we might become righteous. When I keep that in mind I know I can go a second mile for someone else. I can always give an extra effort on behalf of Jesus, the one who gave everything for me.
Pastor Ken Atchison
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com.