Wisdom Devotionals

Going the Extra Mile

Thursday, March 12, 2020

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 of the land gave a Roman soldier the right to force anyone in the empire to carry his gear for one mile. Jews especially hated this practice because it interrupted their schedule and forced them to give aid to their enemy. 

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!”  The soldier would be required to release his burden bearer.

That’s why the command of Jesus was so dramatic. He took secular law and drafted a new divine law—one which He called “the law of love.” He said to his disciples, “If your enemy compels you to walk one mile, go with him two miles.”  In other words, walk another mile in service—even to your enemy. 

And to this day we’ve been using the expression “going the extra mile” for someone willing to serve beyond the expected norm.

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—exhibited by laws such as this one—and instead of refuting the law of the land, Jesus took the law one step—no, one mile—farther!

What kind of Messiah was He?! Whose side was He on, anyway?   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. Four miles of walking (two out of the way, and two returning) would cause them to miss a couple of hours of work—perhaps even a meal.  Christ’s command was extremely inconvenient.

But that’s the point, isn’t it? 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? Was it convenient for Him to forgive the Roman centurions even after they nailed Him to a tree?  Hardly.  But this was love and grace in action . . . going the second mile, to say the least! 

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? 

Life would become a lot more inconvenient for you, but it will make a distinctive impact on all around you.

So, put on your sandals, shoulder that burden . . . and walk another 1,000 steps.

Prayer Point: Is there someone in your life you don’t regard very highly? Pray for God to reveal ways you can show grace to that person.

Extra Refreshment: Read Luke 10 and learn from the example of a man who took his enemy the extra mile.