March 20th 2013
“If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” Matthew 5:41
My priest friend, Father Michael Doyle, once said, “The greatest compliment Jesus ever gave a human being was to love their enemies.” Why? “Because Jesus believed that human beings were capable of doing something completely counter-intuitive, something so extraordinary that it contradicts their animal instincts.”
Jesus believed that human beings were capable of behaving in remarkable ways. Jesus makes this same kind of appeal in the above verse. The custom in Jesus’ day was for Roman soldiers—part of that imperial system that was deeply resented by the Jewish people—to ask civilians to carry their heavy bags. Civilians were required, by law, to do this for one mile. You can only imagine the animus this practice created in the hearts of the occupied people. At any time and in any place, a soldier could humiliate you by making this request. Rather than resenting the request and receiving the humiliation, Jesus turns the whole process on its head. “Go with them for two miles!”
Can you imagine the Roman soldiers when their subjects did not drop their bags after the first mile? Perplexity? Confusion? Maybe even anger—after all, the dynamics of power have now shifted. Jesus calls you and me toward a “second mile” lifestyle. It is a lifestyle that joyfully and willingly demonstrates love by choosing to do what we are not required to do. (The Promise Effect, p.137)
If someone asks you a favor, or if there’s some regular chore you resent doing, find a way to do more, or to do it better than required. You don’t need to say it’s a “second mile” thing; just do it as a gift of God’s love.
Going the second mile, Lord, is a challenge—especially if my heart is supposed to be in the right place. Thank you for believing that I can get to this place. Thank you for believing that I can become more than I can imagine.