In the past, I’ve often considered going the extra mile to be less than it really should be. I’ve often thought of it as just doing extra to please someone, or possibly doing extra to be a good example or a good witness to someone who needs to see Christ in me.
I’m not saying that these things are not part of what Jesus meant when He told His disciples to go the extra mile. But I do think that there is much more to consider in this “simple” but oh so hard command.
When a Roman soldier commanded a non-Roman to carry a burden for him, he was only allowed to expect the person to carry it for one mile. So, Jesus told His followers to carry it an extra mile.
He knew that the Jewish people resented the Roman occupation of their land, that they bore a grudge against the Romans for all the harsh treatment to them and theirs. Jesus knew that the last thing in the world that they would want to do was show kindness and respect for the Roman soldiers. As a matter of fact, it was pretty much impossible for them to do so with a good attitude, short of asking for the empowering of God in their hearts and minds. But He also knew that when He would go back to Heaven to be with His Father, He was going to send the Holy Spirit to empower His disciples to do many things that would otherwise have been impossible.
So, how does this apply to us today? We don’t have to put up with a Roman occupation. But do we not have experiences with people who try to control us in ways that make us feel uncomfortable or even upset?
Could it be that the Lord puts people in our lives who are actually a lot like we are, so we can feel how we make other people feel when we do or say those same sorts of things? Or maybe He wants us to learn the art of being kind to those who hurt or insult us, because He wants us to become more like He is. Jesus came to save us when we were His enemies because the thought of our becoming His friends instead gave Him joy. (Heb. 12:2)
Romans 5:10 “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” (NASB)
At any rate, in thinking how to go about doing this extra mile thing, I am reminded that God sometimes allows or even puts people in our lives who may bring conflict in order to show us our own sinfulness with the goal of bringing us to a sorrow that leads us to repentance. This then frees us up to serve God and to use the gifts He has given us without the hindrance of the chains and shackles that we are dragging along behind us when we hang on to anger, resentment, bitterness and the like.
So, let’s consider how we, as friends of God, reconciled by His going the extra mile and by laying down His life for us who were His enemies, can be more like Him. Let’s bring Him joy by letting His Spirit who dwells within us give us the strength to walk the second mile as Jesus said we should.