“If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” Matthew 5:41
Roughly 2000 years ago in Judea, the mood was one of great tension. The Roman empire ruled the Jewish people with the usual Roman iron fist. Brutality and executions were the norm, and the subjugated people did what they were told or paid a horrible price. Even those who obeyed orders were forced into various further humiliations to remind them they were under Roman authority. One of these humiliations was the law of the mile.
By law, a Roman soldier could force a Jewish male to carry his load for one mile. There was to be no discussion. If you were told to do it, you did it. As you can imagine, the Jews despised this flaunting of power. Most all of the Jewish homes would have markers placed exactly one mile from their homes in all directions so that when forced to carry they wouldn’t go even an inch beyond what was required. It has been said that when the mile was completed the Jews would throw the Roman’s gear down and spit on the ground as a meager but useless protest.
It was in this context that Jesus, while preaching the amazing and famous Sermon on the Mount, said the words of Matthew 5:41. When you’re forced to go one mile, go two. This probably did not sit well initially with His audience. Seriously, Jesus? You want us to do more than is required for these brutal and pagan Romans?? I’m sure the indignant Jews stared back at Jesus incredulously. But Jesus was indeed quite serious. If we are to follow Him, we must become second mile people.
This second mile principal could be a game changer for all of us. Are we people who do the required mile but no more? If so, we are missing the joy of the second mile. You see, the first mile was one done under a certain type of slavery to the Romans, but the second mile was the free mile! No one made them do mile two. And that’s why it’s so special and so impactful. I can only guess the tremendous impact this had on the region as many men who heard Jesus’ words began to practice the second mile. Who knows, maybe they won over a few Roman soldiers!
If we are to be people of the Gospel, we must live in the shadow of it’s power and witness. Jesus most certainly went the second mile for us. What if we, in His name and power, began to live this way? What would our marriages and homes be like if we stopped only doing what is required and begin to go above and beyond? I believe it would transform our lives and those around us. Look, anyone can do the required mile! Wicked people will often do what is required when it benefits them. But the second mile requires not only feet, but hearts. May we all in the power of Christ become second mile people this year in every arena of our lives.