The request came out of the blue just like all the others. A friend needed a ride. Actually he needed a ride somewhere and then he needed me to come back in an hour and pick him up and take him home. I was this close to walking out my front door and beginning my day. My day. I had already mapped out my morning with precise detail and had a list of objectives I needed to accomplish. As my dad always used to say, “I had places to go, people to see, and things to do.” Now none of that was going to get done. It was as if my own personal GPS was shouting out, “Recalculating!”
A Roman Mile
As I grumbled to myself I realized I needed to recalculate more than my morning commute. My attitude needed an adjustment. I thought back to something Jesus said that I had taught on just a few weeks earlier.
"Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two." - Matthew 5:41
When Jesus said this I bet there were murmurs and grumbling from the crowd. Jesus and his audience were living under Roman occupation. (For an extremely thorough look at the Roman military in the New Testament check out this great article at bible.org) A Roman soldier had the right to enlist any Jewish citizen who happened to be nearby in the task of carrying the soldier’s gear. Want an example? Remember what happened when Jesus was too weak to carry his cross?
"When they (Roman soldiers) led Him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, coming in from the country, and placed on him the cross to carry behind Jesus." - Luke 23:26
So if you were just standing there minding your own business or walking along on your way from one place to the next, any Roman solider could say, “Hey you! Come here!” and force you to carry something for them. The only stipulation was the distance was limited to one Roman mile.
Are You Kidding Me?
Can you imagine that? Can you imagine how much the Jewish people would have hated the Romans for this? Could you blame them? At any given time they could be ordered to carry something, most often the soldier’s pack and equipment. They could be forced to go one mile out of their way. Once the task was completed you still had to walk a mile back to where you started to resume whatever it was you were doing in the first place. Now that would ruin your morning!
What does Jesus say to this great injustice? He says if that happens don’t just go one mile, go another. Go the extra mile. And please don’t miss this - this is how Jesus says we should respond to our enemies. To which I say, how much more should we be willing to go the extra mile for those we actually like? Our family, our friends, our church.
Our Master, Our Model
As you might expect, Jesus didn’t just talk about this idea of service to others. I understand that God is sovereign, but when you read through the gospels you sometimes get the impression that Jesus’ ministry was just one interruption after another.
Mark 2:1-4 … Jesus is teaching and four men lower a paralytic through the roof in order to get him to Jesus. How do you like it when someone interrupts you when you’re speaking? Far from being upset, Jesus praises the men and heals their friend.
Mark 5:21-43 … Jesus is by the seashore and a father rushes up and pleads with Jesus to come and heal his daughter. On the way a woman touches Jesus and is healed. Jesus sees none of this as an interruption.
Luke 8:24 … Jesus is asleep and they wake Him because of the storm. How do you like it when someone interrupts your nap? Jesus calms the storm.
Mark 10:13 … People bring children to Jesus but the disciples rebuke them. Jesus doesn’t have time for that. Yes He does. Jesus rebukes the disciples and blesses the children.
This is what true service looks like. True service has to involve some level of sacrifice. There is nothing wrong with volunteering on your day off at a homeless shelter or planning for that mission trip that is six months from now or taking your turn in the church nursery on a scheduled rotation. But ask yourself this - how much of my service to others is only on my terms?
When I got that request to play the role of Uber driver for a day my first thought was, why couldn’t he have asked me to do this tomorrow when I would be off from work? Why not ask me a couple of days ahead of time so I could have planned better? I wanted to help I told myself. But in reality I only wanted to help when I wanted to help. I wanted to help when it was convenient for me to do so. Is that what true service looks like? Isn’t that what we always say when we decline opportunities to serve? I want to, but now just isn’t a good time.
Jesus calls us to a much higher standard. Our hearts should long to serve those around us whether friend or enemy, whenever there is a need.
Do you have the kind of heart that Jesus called for? Ask yourself these questions …
We are all busy. Everyone has places to go, people to see, and things to do. In our crazy hectic worlds we must remember that true service is sacrificial service. Are you ready to go the extra mile today if someone asks you?
"So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people …" -Galatians 6:10
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