If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. If you are kind only to your friends, how can you be different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. [Matthew 5:41-42 (NLT)]
In Jesus’ day, Roman law allowed a soldier to compel any able-bodied man in a conquered province to carry the soldier’s gear one mile and no more. A Roman mile was 1,000 paces of five feet each (a little less than our mile) and a soldier’s pack could weigh as much as 100 pounds. Jesus, however, commanded us to willingly carry that load for a second mile.
We often bring up our neighbor’s trash carts after we’ve wheeled ours up from the road and, sometimes, our neighbors do the same for us. While it is only a matter of an additional 100 or so steps, we’ve eased each other’s burdens. Is that the second mile of which Jesus speaks? Most life coaches will tell their clients that going the extra mile is the secret to business success. The employee who goes above and beyond what is expected is the employee who gets promoted. Is that the purpose of taking the extra mile?
The second mile Jesus demands is more than just bringing in a neighbor’s trash bins or being an exemplary ambitious employee. The first mile is loving, helping and praying for our neighbor; the second mile is loving, helping and praying for our enemies or those we don’t know. That first mile is the mile we can see; the second mile is the one we can’t see, the one that might have rough terrain, steep hills and slippery slopes, the one without promise of financial gain. Jesus lived in the second mile. He touched the untouchable, loved the unlovable and bore the unbearable. As Christians, how willing are we to take that extra mile?
When Simon of Cyrene carried the cross for Jesus, he had no choice; the soldiers seized him and made him carry that load. As Christians, however, we must carry that load willingly. Moreover, it probably won’t be a soldier we assist—it’s more likely to be the weak and powerless. A Christian’s second mile is way more than the Roman soldier’s 1,000 paces and the weight carried may be heavier than his pack of 100 pounds. There is no end to a Christian’s second mile and no limit to a Christian’s love.