“And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two” – Matthew 5:41.
When All Roads Led to Rome
Long before highways were commonplace in society, they were a technological marvel. Originally invented by the Romans to connect and consolidate their increasing empire, these highways were an elaborate labyrinth of roads equipped with mile markers. These markers also provide the distance from the mile marker back to Rome, hence the phrase, all roads lead to Rome. In addition to this system was a law. Every subject of Rome was required to carry a Roman citizen or soldier’s load for a mile. This requirement was applied at any time without consideration of the subject’s present circumstances. Not only was it oppressive it was disruptive and inconvenient. This extent of Rome’s subjugation left a bad taste in its subject mouths.
A Disruptive Proposal
During this time, Jesus came along with a disruptive proposal. “If a man compels you to go a mile, go two with him.” I can only imagine the shock of His audience as the words “go two” came out of His mouth. There must have been someone who muttered under their breath, “As if one mile was not enough, now we have to go two?” But Jesus never commanded the second mile as the first was required. He meant it to reflect a greater power than Rome; God. The first mile was expected, but the second was an expression of going above and beyond the norm. In essence, Jesus was removing the bad taste regarding the first mile by calling His listeners to become second-milers.
In the first mile, the one who carries the load is oppressed while the one for whom the load is carried benefits. However, in the second mile, both parties are beneficiaries. Picture a Roman soldier finding a young man along the highway, dropping his luggage next to him, and waiting without uttering a word. The young man, compelled by law and regardless of his present business, stops what he is doing, picks up the load and walks the first-mile.
Instead of dropping the load at the mile marker with disdain and disgust for the rude interruption, he is urged on by hissing gumption. Undoubtedly this puts some severe strain on the man carrying the luggage, but his heart is growing in delight as his footsteps pace him to the second-mile marker. The soldier, totally thrown off by this act, wonders silently, “Why is he still carrying my bag?” Upon reaching the second mile, the man places the luggage gently on the ground instead of dropping it.
An unforgettable and impactful experience has been created for both the young man and the soldier. First, the young man does not return to his previous labor in disdain but delight. In fact, he has a broad smile on his face and a pep in his step. Dumbfounded by his look, his friends ask, “Why the glow?” His four worded reply sufficiently communicates what he is experiencing, “I went for two.”
This is the power of the second-mile.
The Challenge and Privilege For Today
Just as people under Roman rule lived in times of great tension, we find ourselves, not in subjection to foreign rule, but living in a season of heightened tension. But Jesus’ proposal still shines like a beacon in challenging times; “go for two.” The path of least resistance dictates we first look out for our interests. But “going for two” or becoming a second miler creates a paradigm shift. The challenges we face in our world require two types of people. We need first responders. These are the doctors, nurses, police officers, delivery drivers, and others at the front lines of life serving. But we also need second-milers, those who go above and beyond and make a lasting impact in society.
Making the Shift
Second-mile people overcome the need for self-preservation and to pursue self-interest. They embrace selflessness as their default system. They discover delight because they have grafted in a lifestyle that erases the lines of selfishness. In the second mile, our influence grows as we operate outside the normal requirements. Our subjugation to the bare minimum approach to life ceases. We bring our best and make the lives of those around us better. We serve because we want to, not because we are compelled. Second-milers realize that making a change starts with touching people’s hearts with acts of empathy. They are not bound to the law; they are bound by something greater; love. They shift from asking the selfish, “What about me?” to the selfless, “What about them?”
I am convinced second-milers are among the most fulfilled people walking the face of the earth. Unfazed by the task ahead, their choice to go above and beyond sets them apart. Second milers stay observant. They step in when others choose to ignore and step over. The cloth they are cut from indicates they are from a different planet, but they are everyday people going through the same predicaments as everyone else. Success is no longer their reason for waking up in the morning. Making a difference has captured their entire way of life.
During this month, the following markers will help us to become second milers:
Enduring the First (coming March 11th)
Enjoying the Second (coming March 18th)
Making the Second Mile a Lifestyle (coming March 25th)
Final Thought: In a world where things are out of kilter, it is always refreshing to come across a second-miler. The following observation from author Mel Blackaby captures the need to become a second-miler:
First-mile living is cramped and unsatisfying. When you stride beyond it, chains fall off, and freedom ensues. True rest, fulfillment, joy, and other surprising treasures become yours when you dare to embark upon the second mile.
Keep on keeping on.