Jesus said, “Further, if someone press-gangs you into doing one mile, go with them and do two.”
— Matthew 5:41 (USC)
Conscription has changed many lives in the manner with which it has been enforced. Where there is no say in the matter, and we are compelled to do a thing against our will, what are we to do? The choice is implied in such a way to indicate there doesn’t seem to be a choice. And this is an important differentiation we need to keep in mind in discussing the above verse.
Choice is the strangest thing. We are so apt to resist certain things because of the erroneous perception that we don’t have a choice.
Even when there appears to be no choice, there is still a choice – a decision – to be made. Viktor Frankl, and his experience in Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War, taught us that. Whenever we are disempowered we have agreed to become disempowered. And because we still have the power to make a choice we may go willingly or unwillingly. Why would we go unwillingly when we could go willingly, having made the choice, having retained our sense of empowerment?
A “press-gang” is a group of soldiers commissioned by an authority to seize us for war – to fight in a war we do not choose to fight in. Being press-ganged, therefore, has nuances of being forced against our volitional will.
Having been press-ganged into going one mile, Jesus says we ought to go two. Why? It’s simple. We have made the choice – the choice to serve.
We have given those who thought they forced us the opposite of what they expected. They thought, at best, they might get begrudging compliance.
But we gave them not only compliance, but willing service!
We have doubled the requirement. In that, we have communicated something about the kingdom of God: that it is totally of a different world, and that nothing and no one can overcome this Kingdom.
Never do we ever go double the distance against our will. We always ‘impress’ others because we meant to impress them.
So this is not merely the matter of going further than what’s considered reasonable. It’s about choosing to be at joy with whatever is asked of us.
If we are asked to help a friend because they are moving house, and it’s a hot day, there is much heavy lifting to do, and we’ll miss out on an event we could otherwise be at, if we choose to help them move, we throw ourselves into making it the best move. We are encouraging and we lift more than our share of the weight. Additionally, when others are falling away after the first load has been done, we will be on the truck back to the old place to pack the second load!
QUESTIONS in REVIEW:
1. Think of a time when you really did go the extra mile. What was your motive in that case?
2. How are you best converting ambivalence into enthusiasm to go the extra mile?
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.
Note: USC version is Under the Southern Cross, The New Testament in Australian English (2014). This translation was painstakingly developed by Dr. Richard Moore, a NT Greek scholar, over nearly thirty years.