The Extra Mile

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“If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” (Matthew 5:41)

Roman law entitled its soldiers to force any Jew into carrying his heavy military gear for a mile. Imagine how that made the Jews feel, being treated with all the respect of a pack mule. It wasn’t just the physical strain or the inconvenience of being conscripted on their way to the mall to buy shoes, but the humiliation of it all! Why then would Jesus tell them to go two miles?

Remember, the surpassing righteousness that befits true Kingdom people is a theme throughout the Sermon. In this case it surpasses it by a “mile”! If it were me, it would be all I could do to refrain from spitting on it before handing it back!

But the extra mile is another example of the morally daring act of resisting an oppressor without emulating him, neutralizing his inhumanity without mirroring it. You are saying to him: I’m not serving you because I fear your authority or even your ability to kill me. I do it freely because I choose to. I do it to imitate Jesus’ higher standard.

For the first mile you’re under the soldier’s control. The second mile you’re walking in the freedom of your own choice. While the first mile might be considered passive resistance, the second voluntary mile, which requires the strength of a meek spirit, is active nonviolent resistance.


This is an excerpt from a book I hope to publish in the near future on the Sermon on the Mount called: What In The World? Some Moral, Social, and Politically Disruptive Implications of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

4 Replies to “The Extra Mile”

  1. I’m thinking maybe we need to carry someone else’s baggage, they’re anger and fear an extra way. Bare their burden you could say. People can really be carrying a load of ill will. You want to kick it out of the way and walk on with indignation. But what’s going on? Why do they have such resentment? It’s as if they’re saying you are not a human being. I can disrespect and disregard your humanity if I want to. Jews didn’t matter to Roman soldiers. These days to bare up shows we do matter. It shows they matter too don’t you think?

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