The Mile That Brings A Smile
By Dr. Bill Bright
How does one go about living like Jesuson a daily basis? Among the many grand and glorious principles taught by Jesus Christ, I believe that the principle of “the second mile” completely showcases the dynamics of true discipleship. In the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “And whoever shall force you to go one mile, go with him two” (Matthew 5:41). It is the second mile principle that will put a smile on our face, a spring in our step, and a song in our heart. The first mile is the trial mile and the second mile is the smile mile. The key to living life with a smile is a Christ-centered life. It has been said, “A person wrapped up in himself makes a very small package.”
I wish to provide several cognitive reasons for going the second mile in your discipleship. First, the second mile is the character mile. What was Jesus talking about when he said, “And whoever shall force you to go one mile, go with him two.”? In Jesus’ day, the Romans had a practice that they had learned from the Persians about 600 years earlier. This practice was to subjugate a people who had been conquered through war.
If a Roman soldier saw a Jewish man or boy, he could command the man or boy 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. 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 jesting.” “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.
What is the principle of the second mile? It is to do more than is required or expected of us. Jesus is saying that any pagan or unsaved person can go one mile (5:46,47). The first mile is to love those who love us. The second mile is to love those who do not love us. We must always remember that life is lived on three levels. The hellish level is to return evil for good. The human level is to return good for good and evil for evil. The heavenly level is to return good for evil. The second mile is to return good for evil.
When a Jewish man or boy is carrying the soldier’s backpack for the first mile, he is a slave. However, when he chooses to carry the burden for a second mile, he then takes control of the situation. The character mile moves us from slaves to masters. The first mile is the “have to” mile, but the second mile is the “want to” mile.
Secondly, the second mile is the commitment mile. We go the first mile out of legalism but continue the second mile out of love. In order to live like Jesus, we must go the second mile when we experience personal degradation (Matt. 5:38,39). The first mile is to give place to revenge, but the second mile is to give place to love. Jesus said, “If someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also.” In order for someone to smite you on the right cheek it means that someone hit you with the back of his/her hand. Has someone treated you disrespectfully before others? The best way to get rid of an enemy is to make a friend of out him.
Furthermore, the commitment mile includes personal defeat (5:40). Jesus is talking about a legal settlement. In this legal matter, there is a brother who has been found guilty. He has been required to give his shirt. Jesus is saying, if you know you have done wrong, do not simply try to rectify the wrong by fulfilling the law, but go the second mile. If you are wrong, then apologize, get right with your brother and God, and go the second mile.
Not only does the second mile include personal degradation and personal defeat, but also personal dedication (5:42). We are to have a giving spirit. We are not simply to pay our bills, but give to those who are in real need. In order to live like Jesus, we go the second mile when others have wronged us, when we have wronged others, and when there are serious financial needs.
Third, the second mile is the commission mile. I have been working with people long enough to observe that all successful people live by the second mile principle. The first mile is crowded but the second mile is not busy at all.
Imagine two different scenes with me. In the first scene, a Roman soldier commands a Jewish man or boy to carry his backpack or burden for an entire mile. The first Jewish male becomes extremely upset as he picks up the soldier’s burden and begins to carry it. As he carries the backpack, he talks in angry tones to the soldier. At the end of a mile, he throws the burden down and returns home, full of rage, hatred, and anger.
The second scene is the complete opposite of the previous scene. As soon as the Roman soldier commands the Jewish male to carry his burden, the Jewish person responds with a warm Christian greeting. In his heart, he truly wants to win this soldier to Jesus Christ. Along the way, he encourages conversation between himself and the soldier. At the end of the first mile, the Jewish person says, “If you do not mind, I would be honored to carry your burden for a second mile.”
Can you imagine the incredulous look on the soldier’s face when he hears these words? The Roman soldier says, “There is something different about you. Most Jewish men become angry when I command them to carry my backpack. What makes you different from the others? The Jewish person says, “On one occasion, I heard Jesus Christ teach on the second mile principle. So, I am doing what Jesus Christ commanded me to do.” The soldier responds, “Who is Jesus Christ?” The Jewish man answers, “He is the Messiah and savior of the world.”
By the time they reach the end of the second mile, this Jewish man has shared the gospel with this Roman soldier. The second mile is the witnessing mile. I am convinced that more souls would be saved if we lived our lives on the second mile. Jesus went the second mile for all of us. Why would anyone want to live on the trial mile when can live on the smile mile?