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. 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. In a similar way, Roman soldiers forced Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross of Jesus out of Jerusalem. Such impressment by an occupying army was viewed with outrage by the Jews and yet Jesus told them to willingly carry the load beyond what demanded by the soldier.
We don’t live with an occupying army so what does this command mean to us? Is the second mile simply bringing up a neighbor’s trash cart after we’ve brought up ours or is it more? Most life/career coaches tell their clients that going the extra mile is the secret to business success. The employee who gets promoted usually is the one who went above and beyond what was demanded. Is self-promotion the purpose of taking the second mile?
The second mile Jesus demands is more than another 1,000 paces, bringing in a neighbor’s trash bins, or being an exemplary 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—the one that might have rough terrain, steep hills and slippery slopes, and without the promise of positional or 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?
Let us remember that, when Simon of Cyrene carried the cross to Golgotha, he didn’t carry it for the soldiers; he carried it for Jesus. When we go the extra mile, we’re not doing it for our neighbor, boss, or even our enemy; like Simon, we’re doing it for the Lord! A Christian’s second mile is carried willingly and doesn’t stop at 5,280 feet; there is no end to our second mile because there is no limit to our love. Rather than first mile believers, we must be second mile disciples!
When we love the Lord, obedience ceases to be a burden. Obedience becomes a delight. [Joseph B. Wirthlin]