Summary: I believe that we as Christians are required to live in the second mile. I have been working with people and Pastoring long enough to observe that all successful people live by the second mile principle.
Title: Living in the Second Mile
Scripture: St. Matthew 5:41
(Adapted from sermon from Rev. Edward Hardee, 7/2000)
Preached at Perfected Praise Worship Center, Oklahoma City
On Sunday, November 18, 2007
We have entered into this Thanksgiving week, in a few days we will gather with family and friends and sit around the dinner table. Many of us will travel over the nest few weeks as we begin the Holiday and Holy Day Season that will last through early January. I enjoy this time of year, where many who would not ordinarily pause, take the time to reflect and give thanks. As we begin to move closer to Thanksgiving Day, not only should we be thankful for all that God has done and is doing, but also recognize the sacrifice and commitment that accompanies being Thankful.
Run with me over to our text and right before we engage the Scriptures -- we hear a loud commanding voice ringing out and Permeates the air. Thirteen men looked to their left to see what all the commotion was about. There stood a Roman soldier barking orders to a young Jewish man," Jew, carry my back pack one mile." They watched and listened as the Jew pleaded with the solider, "but sir I am on my way to work and my business must be opened before the early morning rush. I don’t have time to carry your pack you are going in the opposite direction.” The solider drew his sword and repeated his orders, "Jew, carry my back pack." So finally the Jew huffed and puffed and frowned and obeyed his orders. Twelve of the thirteen men who watched the episode were astonished – but Jesus was not. Just about a decade before the birth of Jesus, the Roman senate had passed a law that read, "In any conquered province within the Roman Empire, soldiers may compel able bodied men to bear their burden one mile, but no more." Of course, I don’t know if the scenario I just described ever happened, but it would not surprise me if it did. Especially knowing the disciples and understanding Jesus teaching techniques as well as knowing what we have learned about the Scribes, Pharisees, and the Roman Empire.
As I read the words found in our text, my mind takes me back to the Roman occupation of Israel in the first century. I imagine it might not have been out of the norm for a Roman soldier to place his gear upon a Jewish citizen, and command that such a one carry his load. We see this manner of forced employment in ST. MATTHEW 27:32 -- on the way to Calvary, Simon of Cyrene was "...compelled to bear His cross." -. The first reaction might be disdain and rebellion at such a personal inconvenience, but refusal would surely bring nothing good. Doubtless, many burdens were transported this way.
If a Roman soldier saw a Jewish man or boy, he could command the person to carry his backpack or burden for a mile. The Jewish boy or man was required by law to carry this soldier’s burden for a mile. However, most Jews would not carry this burden one inch or one foot further than the law required. The Roman mile was 1000 paces or 1520 yards…a little shorter than the English mile. As you can imagine, this law caused terrible resentment among the Jews toward the Roman government. Can you imagine how the Jews felt when Jesus said, “go the second mile?” No doubt, the audience said, “He must be kidding - Does he really expect us to do more than the law requires us to do?” In essence, Jesus was saying that his disciples need to do more than the legalists who do no more than what is required of them.
The phase “going the second mile” has found its way into our modern jargon. It has its roots in first-century Palestine. The Romans had conquered much of the known world. One of the marvels of their conquest was a vast system of super highways which they had built to and from their conquered territories. There were over 50,000 miles of these Roman roads throughout the empire. At each mile was a stone marker. The New Oxford English Dictionary calls them “guide stones.” These guide stones pointed direction, determined distance, warned of dangers and each one of them had the miles to Rome etched upon them. This is where we get the phrase, “all roads lead to Rome.”
No one likes to be made to do someone else’s work. At the very least, we are apt to complain – argue – or simply refuse to be so used. I spent 11-years in the U.S. Army, I really enjoyed serving, it was a good life. Many times people ask me why didn’t you finish the last 9-years and retire? Although, I enjoyed the military life, I grew to a point where I was simply tired of being told what to do all the time, therefore, I needed a change Being compelled to engage in "community service" by law or by might is demeaning and an argument could be made that it would be unjust. But Jesus tells us to take the sting out of the situation by being willing to carry such a burden an extra mile with a cheerful attitude.