Thursday, February 08, 2007

Going the Second Mile

"The second mile." It's a phrase often used in Christian circles, and even by non-Christians, to refer to going above and beyond the call of duty. Our understanding of this phrase is that it is a choice made by someone to do something extra.

And to a large degree, that is an accurate perception. But the context of Jesus' reference begs for a deeper understanding - something that is harder even than putting forth a little extra effort on the job. Jesus said in Matthew 5:38-42:

“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 the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.

And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.

Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you."

Look at that context in the underlined portion: if anyone FORCES you to go one mile, go two.

Yes, we can choose to go the extra mile in something we enjoy or even in hard times with work or family - and that is good. But it's not supernatural. It doesn't require something beyond ourselves and our own sense of accomplishment to attain.

But choosing to go an extra mile when we are being mistreated, forced to do something we don't want to do in the first place - for example, to voluntarily go two miles instead of the one required by Roman law at the command of a soldier while carrying his burden - that requires something we don't have. Too often we think, "You can make me do it, but I don't have to like it." We never consider giving extra in such situations.

Yet it is in those situations where we do more than we are required to do when it is something we would never have chosen in the first place, that the power of Christ is manifest in our lives. It is at those time that we reflect His image and His heart. It is at those times that our servant's heart is tested. The implication is that this is a situation beyond the individual's control - not a parental or relational situation, where the relationship should be worked out under biblical guidelines, but a circumstantial one. Our jobs, certain laws, paperwork reporting requirements - these things are "a mile" that we feel force us into servitude. Jesus calls us to go the "second mile" - to voluntarily go beyond servanthood to surrender.

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