6 Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter - when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and He will say: “Here am I.” If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, 10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.
2 Corinthians 9:6-15
6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written: “He has scattered abroad His gifts to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.”
10 Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
38 You have heard that it was said, “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.” 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. 43 You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
What does “going the second mile” mean?
Jesus said, “If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” Roman soldiers could force citizens of Israel or any foreigner to carry their backpacks for a mile. This practice had its roots in the early postal system in the Middle East. A courier who was given the responsibility of carrying bags of letters and documents had the authority to force anyone to carry their mail for one mile, but only one mile. As the Roman Empire expanded their army adopted this system for their military to keep their soldiers from being worn out from carrying their heavy backpacks, which weighed more than 50kg.
Roman soldiers could compel any Jew to carry his backpack for one mile. Roman roads had mile markers similar to the milestones we see on modern roads, so it was easy to know where each mile started and ended. If anyone refused, they were flogged. This was just another reason for the intense hatred the Jews had for their Roman oppressors. They hated them because they were Gentile foreigners running their country and they had to pay taxes to Caesar. Carrying a Roman soldier’s heavy backpack for a mile added to their hatred. Whether they were going in that direction or not, or whether they were busy doing something important didn’t matter – when a Roman soldier told someone to carry his pack, the Jew would have to drop everything he was doing and go out of his way to obey his order.
So you can imagine the uproar Jesus must have caused when He said, “If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” They would have understood very clearly what He meant.
“Don’t go a mile with bitter and obvious resentment. Go two miles with cheerfulness and good grace.” This lesson is a lesson in attitude.
As Christians we should live with the attitude of the second mile.
There are some key differences between the first and second miles, and the attitudes you see in them.
The first mile is a mile of compulsion.
There are many people who claim to be Christians but unfortunately they have a first mile attitude. They may have faith, but in reality they are just going through the motions. How do you spot first mile Christians? When you hear things like, “Why should I do more? Why do I have to go to Church every week? How much do I have to give? How much work do I have to do?” First mile Christians hear the preacher quote Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 9 “God loves a cheerful giver,” and you hear them grumble, “Oh, here we go. The Church is asking for money again.” First mile Christians don’t understand that Paul was talking about attitudes of the heart here, not chequebooks.
First mile Christians by their very attitudes betray a false concept of Christian service to God and to others. First mile Christians will do their bit, but more out of a sense of duty, instead of an awareness that they’re doing this for Jesus and representing Him to the world. Generally speaking, they regard Christianity as a religion, instead of what it is meant to be – a living relationship with the living God.
The second mile however, is fundamentally different to the first mile.
It is certainly more difficult, because it is a mile of grace.
Picture the scene: A Roman soldier in the 1st century says to a Jew, “Hey you. Carry my backpack.” He replies, “Yes sir!” And then he joyfully starts walking along with the soldier. After one mile the soldier says, “Okay, you can put it down now.” “I would really like to carry it another mile for you.” In amazement the soldier asks, “Why would you do that?” “Because I am a disciple of Jesus Christ and He told us to do this for you.” The soldier asks, “Who is this Jesus that you follow?” By carrying the pack an extra mile, it not only showed him the love of God but opened up an opportunity to tell him about Jesus. There’s no telling how many people hear about the love of God as we walk with them during that second mile, by doing more than is expected of us.
When Christians go above and beyond the call of duty they demonstrate in practical ways just what it means to have a servant heart, as they show true kindness and goodness to others, often to their own cost.
But in order for us to become second mile Christians, it has to start with a genuine love for God. Jesus said in John 14:23, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.” And 1 John 4:18 teaches us something so important: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
How many Christians do their Christian duty because if they don’t, they fear some kind of retribution from God? First mile Christians have this idea that God is watching them to make sure they don’t step out of line. “I’d better do this, because God will probably be angry with me if I don’t.” That’s not a relationship built on love for God and God’s love for us. That’s a religion based on a list of do’s and don’ts. It is driven first and foremost by fear. There is not much grace and love in the first mile.
If we are ever to make the transition from the first to the second mile, we must love God first.
Those who travel the second mile have an attitude of “What more can I do?” Second mile Christians actively seek new ways to represent God to each other and the world. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.” The NKJV says, “Be always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
When something is abounding, it literally means it overflows, excels or exceeds the norm.
How do you understand the concept of worship? To many, worship is about attending a weekly Church service at which they sing hymns, read the Bible, pray and listen to a sermon. All of these things can lead to worship, but Isaiah teaches in chapter 58 that true worship goes beyond many of the things we do on a Sunday morning.
In Isaiah’s day as today, there were apparently plenty of religious people – first mile believers - but not many responded in ways that would transform them into second mile believers. They would go to the temple regularly, they’d fast and perform their various religious duties, but they stopped short of translating their pious attitudes into true acts of service.
In the verses leading up to our reading today, God says through the prophet Isaiah, “Day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’ Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarrelling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.” (Isaiah 58:2-4)
In Amos 5 we are left in no doubt how God feels about empty religious rituals: “I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:21-24)
Doing things with the right attitude is what serving is really all about. When we have this idea that Christianity is about doing religious duties, we’ve got it all wrong. True worship is not just a weekly ritual, but a daily lifestyle. It may begin in Church, in a “worship service”, but true worship needs to be lived out and seen in the public eye. To put it another way, the first mile ends at the Church door, and the second mile begins with the first step we take outside of our Church buildings.
What kind of impact do you think the Church would have on society if we were a family of true second mile Christians? Do you think the world would sit up and take note? I can guarantee you they would. When they see us taking seriously the call to love and serve others, we will be far more effective witnesses of God’s character and nature than those who go around saying thou shalt or thou shalt not.
Today we are closing our service with the words, “Shine, Jesus, shine. Fill this land with the Father’s glory. Flood the nations with grace and mercy, send forth your Word Lord, and let there be light.”
Those are wonderful words, but the task of shining the light of Christ out there rests fairly and squarely on us. God has given us the privilege and responsibility of being His ambassadors in the non-believing world, but if you are a first mile Christian you will never be able to rise to that challenge as effectively as a second mile Christian.
What starts with worship is meant to lead us into service. As we come to worship on a Sunday, we should be preparing ourselves with God’s help to serve from Monday to Saturday. The transition from worship to service should happen seamlessly. It is meant to be a natural progression. This is what it means to live a life that reflects the principle of second mile Christianity.
What other applications are there of this principle that Jesus taught about in Matthew 5? Verse 38-39, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 11:20, “Put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or pushes himself forward or slaps you in the face.”
This is so hard for us. As I mentioned earlier, what makes the second mile so difficult is that it is a mile of grace. The world teaches us to stand up for ourselves and to fight back when we are cornered, but Jesus teaches a whole new lifestyle. His call to us is to not stoop to that level, and in so doing we find we’re able to rise up above worldly standards. Again, what makes this seemingly impossible thing possible? Love. Firstly, love for God, then love for each other within the Church, and finally love for those outside the Church, including our enemies. Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” That’s what it means to go the extra mile.
As we’ve seen there are vast differences between the principles of the first and second miles, but the key to making the transition is not just doing more or giving more. All we’re doing then is extending the first mile. It requires a complete change of heart and of attitude.
If we are going to do more because we think that’s what God expects of us, then we have missed the point entirely. Our prayer needs to be that God, by His Spirit would give us a whole new desire to serve and love others. Ask Him to make you into a cheerful giver, and to give you the desire to be a second mile Christian.
So what does it mean to go the second mile?
It means to rise above the instinctive desire to hit back or get even. It means to confront evil with good. It means to swallow our pride and abandon self-interest. It means to be slow to anger and quick to forgive. It means to live by grace when you are not, and especially when you are not treated with grace.
But why should we do all of these things? What is the real purpose of living our lives in the second mile?
We do it, because this is what God has done for us in Jesus. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:1-5, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved.”
Loving, serving and forgiving others is the only legitimate response we have to the endless grace God has shown us.
We go the second mile because Jesus went the second mile for us.
I found a website where an historian has analysed the events that took Jesus from the Garden of Gethsemane to Golgotha. We know from Biblical records that after Jesus was arrested He was taken from Gethsemane to the home of Annas the former high priest, then to the current high priest Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin. After this He was taken to Pilate, to king Herod, back to Pilate, to the soldiers’ barracks where He was flogged, and then finally along the road named Via Delarosa to Golgotha itself where He was crucified. Using historical records and maps of the time, the historian has estimated that during that journey from Gethsemane to the cross Jesus travelled about one and a half kilometres.
Wikipedia defines a Roman mile as “a mille passus, which consisted of a thousand paces of two steps each.” International standards have since defined the ancient Roman mile as precisely 1,481 metres. That’s just 19 metres less than one and a half kilometres…
Coincidence? Possibly. Is this nothing more than poetic licence - using ancient historical records that cannot be 100% verified in order to make a point? Again, quite possibly.
But you cannot help but be struck by the second mile Jesus travelled for us – the journey that took Him to the Cross.
He left His home in glory, walked with us on this earth and taught us the message of life. That was the first mile. And then He went the ultimate extra mile as He gave His life for you and me.
This is why we should strive to be second mile Christians. Because He did it for us.
Jesus showed in His own life that it’s necessary to walk that second mile even if you don’t want to. He who knew no sin became sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God. John 15:13 “Greater love has no-one than this, that one lay down His life for His friends.”
He went the extra mile for us. Are we prepared to do the same for others?
Homegroup Study Notes
Read Matthew 5:38-48
Why do you think it is such a struggle for us to live up to these expectations of Jesus?
We have all been recipients of someone’s generosity as they ‘go the extra mile’ for us. This is a characteristic we see in Christians and non-Christians, but how have you experienced this kind of love from a fellow-believer?
How did your faith grow?
Read Isaiah 58:2-4 and Amos 5:21-24
In which ways have you felt that you have been simply going through the motions in your faith and service to God? (In other words, describe some of your ‘first mile’ frustrations.)
What do you believe God was saying to you during this time?
Without naming anyone, describe a time when you did go the extra mile for someone, but you felt unappreciated or taken advantage of.
How did it make you feel?
How did this experience affect your attitude to serving others?
Read Ephesians 2:1-5
Discuss the example Jesus sets us in going the extra mile.
How does He inspire you to be a second mile Christian, whether you are thanked for your efforts or not?
Close by praying that the Lord would inspire us to move from worship to service, and that He would teach us that loving and serving others is the key to Second Mile Christianity.