Monday, March 08, 2010

"How much more" -- going the extra mile

And if someone compels you to go one mile, go with him for two miles. (Matt 5:41)
I think this verse already receives too little attention among us. We hear the background: the ancient Roman soldiers could force someone to carry their packs for a mile. And we think, from knowing what the ancient Romans were doing, that we have learned something. We have learned historical details. But that was not Jesus' point.

If a follower of Christ is ever compelled to do good, we are called to insist on doing more than we were forced to do. We make it plain that we act in kindness willingly, that it is not the compulsion which makes us do good but that it is our calling to do good, our own purpose to do good. We show it by doing more than was asked, more than we were compelled to do by law or by circumstances.

Any time that we are compelled to do good, what Christ said about the extra mile applies in our lives. One example is if we are taxed for a thing which is, by most definitions, charity. If we find that the government has set a quota for charity and made it obligatory by deduction from our paychecks, we find ourselves in a similar situation. If we are taxed for the welfare of the poor, we are going one mile, helping another person in a way that the law requires and compels us to do. It is often a heavy load. But to go the extra mile, the next step is to help more than what is required of us, to still help the poor willingly and not only under compulsion. In this way, we demonstrate that it is not compulsion which drives us to care for the poor, but the love of God which drives us to care for the poor.

If those who do not love God or neighbor help when compelled, how much more should those who love God and neighbor help.

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