The Secret of the Second Mile
A few years back I was reading “The Joshua Code” and one of the things that stuck into my mine were the authors reflections on Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5. The writers’ insight on this verse is the theme for much of this blog.
In many arenas of life, we hear the phrase, “Going the second mile” and all of us have our own concept of what this means. For some it implies working twice as hard, twice as long, or twice as smart as the others around us. While all of these might have a place in our life, I believe something much more special is implied.
The roots of this phrase are discovered back in first-century Palestine – in Jesus’ day. The Roman Empire had conquered most of the Mediterranean world. Of all of their accomplishments few were more impressive than the overwhelming systems of super highways they built for travel to and from their conquered territories. Theirs’ was one of the very first “interstate” travel systems including the placement of stone markers at each mile along the way of their 50,000 miles of these roads.
At every mile marker the traveler was able to determine the distance to the next town as well as to Rome itself (thus the term, “all roads lead to Rome”) and warning of potential dangers that might be ahead.
Roman law required any citizen or soldier had the authority to compel any member of the conquered lands to carry his backpack or load for him for one mile – but only for one mile. It was in this context that Jesus said, in his sermon of the mount, “If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles.” –Matthew 5:41 nlt. Jesus was calling upon His listeners to not only do what was required but more.
You and I know what separates one from others is the understanding of the willingness to see the second mile completed. You see, the first mile is one of obligation or requirement, or law, while the second is that of opportunity, realization, and liberty.
It is never easy and rarely pleasant to go the first mile, but it is our obligation. It’s tough to get started on the first mile because, just like for the man, woman, or child being forced to carry the pack of the Roman in interrupted their plans and caused them to swallow their pride and bear a burden. The same is true for us sticking to the basic and mundane stuff of our personal and professional responsibilities. We do the basics because they are required, but once we have done these well, we can look forward with anticipation to the second mile – the mile of opportunity!
It is in the second mile that we can build deeper and more meaningful relationships. The second mile is where we are able to develop a balanced life and enjoy the fruit of our labors from the first time. You will never enjoy the fullness and balance of life completely if we do not complete the first mile. The requirements of our job are just that requirements which must be met.
Some of us are struggling today and constantly on the edge of complaint because we are struggling and drudging through the mud of the first mile of obligation. Let me remind you that we can never go the second mile until we have completed the first.
I urge you to set your eyes on the magic of the second mile. The diligence of mile one will certainly bring you to the delight of the second mile.
We all want and deep a more balanced life. Our family is worth the work of this present mile, but always remember the words of Jesus again, “If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles.” –Matthew 5:41 nlt.