Text: Matthew 5:38
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for eye and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you not to 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 away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.”
When Jesus spoke these words, the Jewish people in Israel were living under Roman rule. The Jewish were bound by many Roman laws and customs that were contrary to Jewish law and culture, and the Jewish resented Roman rule because of this. One such law was that a Roman soldier could “compel,” or force, a Jewish citizen to carry his pack for one mile, which was 1,000 paces. According to the law, the Jewish citizen was required to go that one mile, but he could not be forced to walk any further. So, once the Jewish citizen served his mile, his duty was fulfilled.
Set against the background of this Roman history, Jesus is teaching the people of His day to voluntarily go beyond the one mile and go for a second mile. The people in this day probably were surprised to hear Him teach this. Who in their right mind would volunteer to give the Romans any more than what was required? But, Jesus is teaching that they should do so. And, notice, in this passage, Jesus never once refers the Romans. He is not saying go the second mile for a Roman soldier who compels you to go a mile. He says “Whoever” compels you go a mile. In other words, whoever asks you to do something, do it and then go above and beyond what is expected. That “Whoever” could be a Roman, but it could also be a fellow Jew. It could be friendly neighbor, or it could be an enemy.
So, how does the second-mile teaching apply to us today?
1.The first mile is what you HAVE to do.
Going the first mile for someone is doing what you HAVE to do, or doing what you feel you have to do to pacify another.
“I have to go to church on Sunday.”
“I have to tithe 10 percent.”
“I have to get out a certain amount of production to please my employer.”
“I have to put in my 40 hours of work.”
“I have to speak to this person so I won’t appear unchristian-like.”
“I have to do this person a favor because they did one for me, or because I might need a favor from them some time.”
The first mile is the “Have to” mile.
Going the first mile is not a happy mile because you are counting every step of the way to get it finished so you can say, “Okay, I did it.”
Obeying the first mile law did not relieve the Jews of their resentment toward the Romans. In fact, it only increased their animosity. So it is with us. Focusing only doing what is required of you does nothing for your happiness. The first mile gives you satisfaction only in knowing that you did what you had to do. It does not give you joy, peace, and inner fulfillment. Like the Jews, sometimes, it even increases our resentment toward others.
“If you really fulfill the royal law according to Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well.” (James 2:8)
2. The second mile is what you GET to do.
No one requires the second mile of you. The second mile is YOUR choice. It is what you GET to do. It is going above and beyond what is expected of you just simply because you can and because you choose to! When you go the second mile, something extraordinary happens. It liberates you of the “have to” attitude. It frees you of the resentment and annoyance of having to meet a requirement forced upon you, because the second mile is YOUR choice. The second mile gives you an inner satisfaction that the first mile cannot do. It also gives you peace and joy that the first mile cannot give you. The second mile is the happy mile.
The first mile is living by the flesh, that is laws and rules, doing what is required, but the second mile is living by the Spirit.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such, there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
3. Examples of second-mile people.
A couple of Bible examples include Joseph and King David. Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery because they were jealous of him. But, after Joseph rose in rank from a slave to second-in-command of all Egypt, he had the power to exact revenge on his brothers when they came to him to ask for food. Joseph could have just simply sold the food to them like he did for everyone else who came to buy in Egypt. That would have been the first mile, but he went the second mile by giving his brothers more than what they bought. He also made provisions for them to possess their own land in Egypt.(Genesis, chapters 42-46)
King David swore to his friend, Jonathan, that he would always look out for Jonathan’s descendants. When David found out about Jonathan’s crippled son, Mephibosheth, David went beyond just looking out for him. David brought Mephibosheth into his palace, gave him a permanent seat at the king’s table, ordered servants to provide for him, and treated him like one of his own royal sons. (II Samuel, chapter 9)
In Washington, D.C, there is a national monument called “The Extra Mile- Points of Light Volunteer Pathway.” Positioned next to the White House, the monument is dedicated to people who “”through their caring and personal sacrifice, reached out to others, building their dreams into movements that helped people across America and throughout the world”.
4. How you can be second-mile person.
A second-mile person is not someone who tries to get even but who gives more than is expected or required. A second-mile person tries to follow the example of Jesus because Jesus did not have to die for our sins. He did not have to suffer in agony on the cross for our sins, but He chose to anyway. He could have just said “Okay, I will forgive you of your sins,” but He went above and beyond that to sacrifice His life to show us just how much He loves us and wants to forgive us. When we choose to go the second mile, we are following the example of Jesus.
I certainly have had my times of being stuck in the first-person attitude, but I do recall a time when I chose to be a second-miler. It was years ago, and a woman I knew, for whatever reasons, was repeatedly calling my home while I was at work and leaving rude and hateful messages on my phone. One day, I decided I was going to take care of this in a way that Jesus would want me to do, so I called her and simply asked her if she would like to go have lunch with me. I am sure she was really surprised, but she agreed. While we were having lunch, I told her, “I don’t see any reason why you and I cannot be friends.” After that lunch date, she and I became good friends, and over the years, she and I have enjoyed many good times together.
I recently read about a man who attended an event. After going to the restroom, he returned to find that someone had taken his seat. The man kindly made the other person aware that they had taken his seat, but the person not only refused to give him back his seat but talked rudely to him. So, the first man left but shortly returned to bring a cold drink to the person who had behaved rudely to him. He certainly did not have to do that, but he chose to do so.
When you choose to do something nice for someone who has mistreated you or made your life difficult, you are demonstrating “Jesus” to that person, and you are also teaching them how to be a second-mile person.
The best way to be a second-mile person is simply to look for something nice to say or do for someone who has mistreated you instead of focusing on being mad, hurt, or getting even. When you choose to go the second mile, you do yourself a great service. You free yourself of becoming trapped into feeling anger and resentment. The second mile frees you and puts you in a happy place.
“Therefore, ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him, if he is thirsty, give him a drink, for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:20)