There are times when we come across the hard sayings of Jesus. They are not only hard to understand, but hard to know how to live. One of them is found in the Sermon on the Mount and is familiar to a lot of people, “And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two” (Matthew 5:41).
Back in first century Judea, it was occupied by the Roman Empire and a Roman soldier could “compel” a person to carry their kit one mile. Imagine what it was like to be forced to carry the equipment of an occupying army for a mile. The Jews hated the Romans and then to be forced to carry something for them must have created such a bitterness in their hearts. They were glad to be done. The Romans were their enemy.
But here is where the saying of Jesus gets hard because he said that after you have been forced to carry equipment one mile, go the second mile. What is that all about? If it were you or me, would we be saying, no way! Well, let me give you something to think about; yes, the first mile was a forced obligation. It wasn’t done willingly. Going the second mile, then, was voluntary. They were free to go farther and Jesus encouraged that.
Why would anyone want to do that? Simply because the second mile would take the bitterness out of their hearts. If I am free to choose to go farther, I will have something different in my heart at that point. It means that I have chosen to serve and am willing to go beyond anyone’s expectations.
Does volunteering to serve others make a difference in your life? There are things we have to do in life, but once you are free from your obligations do you willingly go the second mile? That second mile adds a freedom to your life that can set you free from things like self-centeredness, envy, and even bitterness toward a boss or supervisor that expects too much for the wages you get paid.
Volunteering is good for the heart. I think that idea gets to the core of what Jesus was getting at. Go the extra mile for your neighbor, your boss, or your spouse and see if it doesn’t change their heart too.