“Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two” (Matthew 5:41 NKJV).
The phrase going the second mile has found its way into our modern vernacular. Its roots are found all the way back in first-century Palestine. The Romans had conquered most of the Mediterranean world. One of the marvels of their conquest was a vast system of superhighways that they had built for travel to and from their conquered territories. There were more than fifty thousand miles of these Roman roads throughout the Empire. At each single mile was a stone marker. These mile markers pointed directions, determined the distance to the next town as well as to Rome itself, and warned of dangers that might lie ahead. Hence the common phrase, “All roads lead to Rome.”
By law, a Roman citizen or soldier could compel a subject from one of the conquered lands to carry his backpack, or load, for him for one mile, but one mile only. As Jesus was preaching His Sermon on the Mount, I have often wondered if He inserted the reference about the second mile when He saw an object lesson unfolding before Him and His hearers. He said, “Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.” Can you imagine the bombshell this must have been as it fell upon the ears of those under Roman occupation who were listening to His sermon? Jesus called upon His hearers to do what was required of them — and then some.
What is it that separates some from others in athletics or education or business or the arts or in any endeavor? It is their drive to do more than is expected or required. The second mile is a secret to success in life. When focusing on the second mile, many forget there are two miles in play here. The first is a mandated mile; the second is a miracle mile.
There is a mandated mile motivated by law
This first mile is often ignored. In fact, I never remember hearing a sermon or reading an article about the first mile, only about the second. The first mile is required of us. The first mile is always the hardest. Ask the distance runner. The second wind never kicks in on the first mile. The truth is, it is not as easy to enjoy the things we have to do as it is to enjoy the things we want to do.
The Christian life has its own mandated mile that is motivated by God’s law. It is tough to get started on the first mile. Ask any first-century Jew under Roman rule. The first mile interrupts your schedule when you are compelled to perform it. It causes you to swallow your own pride and bear an extra burden. Likewise, often the most difficult part of the Christian life is getting started on the first mile. This is true with almost everything in life, with exercise programs, dieting and scores of other disciplines. Even Scripture memorization! In fact, many try to play leapfrog with Matthew 5:41. That is, they want to enjoy the little extras of the second mile, but they do not want to deal with the requirements of the first mile.
There is a miracle mile motivated by love
It is this miracle mile that separates certain individuals from others. The second mile is only made possible by being obedient to the first mile. The second mile has a way of brightening our own road. Think about it. Imagine a first-century boy working at his trade. A Roman solider comes by, calls to him and demands that he carry his backpack for one mile down the road. Now, this command interrupts the lad’s whole day and takes him away from his work. But he has no choice. However, this boy is a second miler. They approach the one-mile marker and instead of putting down the pack, spitting on the ground and marching back home, he volunteers to go an extra mile with the soldier. Along the way, he pleasantly asks about life in Rome. The solider is baffled. I have often wondered if that Roman solider at the cross who said, “Truly this was the Son of God,” had had such an experience earlier with a second-mile follower of Christ (Matthew 27:54).
Someone who journeys on the miracle mile also has a way of lightening the load of those around them. One cannot travel the second mile without influencing others. It only takes one second miler in a home to change the entire environment. It only takes one second miler on a team or in the office to do the same. This miracle mile, the second mile, is motivated by the love of Christ.
Incidentally, the second mile is the mile our Lord Himself walked. He knows the road very well. It was love that took Him on the miracle mile to the cross. Oh, He journeyed the first mile. He stepped out of heaven and into human flesh. He walked the mandated mile that was motivated by the law. He kept every detail of the law. But He also went the second mile, motivated by His own love for us. He who made the stars with a spoken word and formed the universe, the One who formed and fashioned us with His own hands, said, “I love you, and I will walk with you.” But we want our own way.
Then He said, “I will go the second mile.” It took Him to the cross where He bore the weight, not of a Roman soldier’s backpack, but of our own sin. And somebody told somebody, and somebody told somebody else, and somebody told Johnny Keeton, and Johnny Keeton told me when I was seventeen years of age. I am not all I ought to be today, but I have never been the same since that day.
Meditate on what ways you can go the second mile today. It will brighten your road and lighten someone else’s load.
Taken from The Joshua Code by O.S. Hawkins. Copyright © 2012 by Dr. O.S. Hawkins. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson
O.S. Hawkins has served pastorates, including the First Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, for more than 25 years. A native of Fort Worth, Texas, he has a BBA from Texas Christian University and his MDiv and Ph.D. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. For almost a quarter of a century, he served as president of GuideStone Financial Resources, with assets under management of $20 billion, serving 250,000 pastors, church staff members, missionaries, doctors, university professors, and other workers in various Christian organizations with their investment, retirement and benefit service needs. He is the author of more than 50 books, and regularly speaks to business groups and churches all across the nation. All of the author’s royalties and proceeds from the entire Code series go to support Mission:Dignity. You can learn more about Mission:Dignity by visiting MissionDignity.org.
Read more articles by Dr. O.S. Hawkins at: https://www.goodnewsfl.org/author/o-s-hawkins/