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Going the Extra Mile

Matthew 5:38-41
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.”

During Jesus’ day, the law gave a Roman soldier the right to force anyone in the empire to carry his gear for one mile. A mile was considered to be a thousand steps. So, the unfortunate person drafted to carry a soldier’s equipment would begin walking along, often counting the number of steps aloud: 1, 2, 3 . . . 998 . . . 999. As soon as he reached one thousand, he could legally say, “Okay, that’s far enough; you got your mile!”

That’s why the command of Jesus was so dramatic. He took secular law and drafted a new divine law. He said to his disciples, “If your enemy compels you to walk one mile, go with him two miles.” Can you imagine the kind of response Jews must have had to this new command? There they were, waiting for their Messiah to rescue them from Roman oppression, but instead, Jesus took the law one step—no, one mile—farther! What kind of Messiah was He? Not only was Christ commanding them to carry their enemies’ luggage for two miles, He was effectively commanding them to sacrifice a good portion of their day in the process. Christ’s command was extremely inconvenient.

But that’s the point: grace is rarely convenient.

Was it convenient for God to put on the garb of humanity and step into a broken, sin- crushed world? Was it convenient for Him to climb the hill to Golgotha and carry our sin on His shoulders? Hardly. But this was love and grace in action! Can you imagine the kind of impact those two-mile Jews had on a Roman? I can just see a Roman Centurion awed and surprised by the compliant believer who said, “I’ll carry your stuff another mile.” What kind of impact could you have today on your family, neighbors, co-workers, and even fellow church members by choosing to live beyond the letter of the law and going the second mile?