Christianity Religion Of The 2nd Mile

Matt. 5:38-48


41whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile,  go with him twain.   


It is not as easy to offer a full and complete definition of Christianity as it might seem, but much like a priceless diamond with its many aspects  the designs  of it are so varied, that That it must be viewed from every angle to fully appreciate it. 


Considering Christianity, it is God's arrangement for reconciling the world to Himself, His perfect plan for the redemption of humanity.   It contemplates taking  man in order to make him fit company for God, the angels and other redeemed spirits.


It is designed to subdue the wild reckless spirit in man, purge him of his carnal nature, bringing his will and disposition into perfect harmony with our Heavenly Father.   Christianity is all of this but much, much  more. 


Have you ever considered the disastrous consequences that would inevitably follow, were the Lord, to suddenly and arbitrarily transplant a man into the heavenly abode of the pure saints while yet in his carnal and fallen state? Unfitted for such association, it would result in misery and lawless confusion for God and man.   Such a discretional dealing with any man would be most unkind.  


But the Heavenly Father will not thrust  any man into a state that he is not prepared for nor wants. It should ever be remembered that heaven is prepared place for a prepared people.  Only those who successfully serve their apprenticeship here and finish their preparation of conforming to God’s will and to the image of Christ. will pass through the gate into the eternal city.   


“Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers: for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? or what communion hath light with darkness? 15And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what portion hath a believer with an unbeliever? 16And what agreement hath a temple of God with idols? for we are a temple of the living God; even as God said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17Wherefore Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, And touch no unclean thing; And I will receive you, 18And will be to you a Father, And ye shall be to me sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.  Having therefore these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”  2 Cor 6:14-7:1


The Sermon On The Mount, deals at length with the motives and dispositions that must characterize the child of God, it offers a rule by which we may measure ourselves, as we adhere to them, and as we put aside the weaknesses of humanity and emerge more worthy citizens of the kingdom of God.   This rule was an advance beyond the imperfect concepts that the Jews had before the incarnation of the Lord. Recall how often it is said "Ye have heard it said by them of old time …. but I say unto you."  The Jews took knowledge only of the obvious and outward acts but the teachings of Jesus went beyond and regulated the motive behind the act.


The Law for example, regarding killing Exodus 20:13 “Thou shalt not kill But Jesus added the sin of being angry with one's brother without cause.  (Matthew 5:21-22)  Adultery has always been prohibited, but Jesus condemns the look of lust that precedes the act. (Matthew 5:27-28)  Personal revenge was forbidden, Jesus made resistance to evil equally sinful. (Matthew 5;38-39)


To show the disposition that must characterize the child of God, Jesus offered 3 illustrations:  1st Being smitten on the cheek  2nd being sued at law , and 3rd  being compelled to go a mile against our will.    Matt 5:38-42


First  In Matt. 5:38-39  we read

38Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.


 This illustration designed to inform us the proper conduct  concerning attitudes regarding aggression and insult.   In most societies it is an insult to be slapped on the face.  In this illustration even if injured  we must not retaliate  “turn to him the other also”  Many times we are inclined to jest about this commandment  saying: “After I have turned the other cheek, the Lord didn't say what was to be done then”.  Peter on one occasion thought he was being very generous to forgive 7 times, but Jesus said, 70 X 7,   Matt 18:22  and not just 490 but this passage forbids retaliation of any kind. 


The next found in Matt 5:40  being sued at law

40And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.


The cloke was an outer garment used by the poorer class to protect against the cold of winter, and used often at night to cover oneself while he slept. The illustration is given to show instead of defending ourselves in courts of law against seizure, we should be willing to give even more than was asked.


And third: Being compelled to go a mile against one's will      Matt 5:41

41And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.


The background for this saying was the Roman Government had adopted a practice originating with the Persians of forcing private citizens into government services against their will.  A government agent in need of transportation from one community to the next,  could and would often compel the citizen to provide the transportation. This was very distasteful to the Jews. Further the Romans were usurpers of the land, and the Jews longed for the day, when their legions would driven from their lands. This service was exceedingly detestable to all the patriotic citizens. Yet Jesus said.  41And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.”  


That is the attitude that should  characterize the child of God is “be willing to do twice as much as is demanded”.  Here then is the "Religion Of The 2nd Mile"  There are many things that one must do living in  the state of today’s society.  He must work or starve.  He must care for his family, or suffer the consequences,  He must live civilly or be removed from society.  One is deserving of no commendation who is satisfied to render only the barest minimum of service required. 


What would we think of a man who in determining the amount of money he plans to spend  on his wife and children counted it  out to the last penny necessary to sustain their physical existence, and then take great care to spend  no more? Such a character would deserve and receive the harsh condemnation of all good people. And yet is not this the very basis upon which many determine the amount of activity they shall engage in while performing the work of the Lord?   Are not many content doing only what absolutely must done in order to entertain hope of eternal life?


Jesus taught us to say that when we have done what we ought we are still unprofitable servants.  This is an impressive lesson. It teaches us that when we have done the bare requirements and nothing more, we remain  unprofitable servants.   It is inferior service to do no more than is asked. What do I have to do?  How little may I do?  is what we mean.  The servants who did their masters bidding in the fields,  had only fulfilled their obligations. Luke 17:7- 10

10Even so ye also, when ye shall have done all the things that are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which it was our duty to do.


There Are Many Practical Applications To This Principle.   Some people for example,  have concluded that there is but one essential assembly of the church.  The Lord's day assembly, on Sunday morning. In an effort to sustain this view, they cite to us Heb. 10:25

25Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.  


To assume that this is an admonition to exhort one another to come together is only on this one day is to miss the point completely,  We are commanded to come together in order to exhort one another. The early church met daily teaching and admonishing one another  (Acts 2:44-47).


But those who limit their attendance to this one service believing it to be the only essential and compulsory, admit by doing so, that they are only doing what is required, and hence only unprofitable servants. Do we want  to go into judgment as unprofitable servants.  The first mile is the mile of compulsion,  Jesus in our text pleads for the Religion of the 2nd mile.  It does not ask, "Why must I do that?"  but rather it say, "Lord what is there for me to do?" 


 The principle here is applicable to all the affairs of life,  many have fixed a minimum amount of financial support to the church, admitting by doing so, that is the bare  amount (10%)  sufficient to save their souls. This is what is required.  What is the nature of this kind of service? It is far inferior to service our Lord has a right to expect.  And so in Bible study, prayer, visiting the sick,  and all activity of Christian service.   Our text divides us into two classes, those who serve out of compulsion and those who rise to the high plane of glad and voluntary surrender.  The one asks "What do I have to do?"  the other asks "what may I do?"


An adopted son may, out of consideration return a service that approaches obedience, but the son of birth, seeks to please the father, because he loves him. Love is indeed the fulfilling of the Law.   It is the Christian's Royal Law, fulfilling all others, the reason being love.   3For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous”  1 John 5:3


Many of us today have a most imperfect conception of what sin really is; Oh! we are aware of the fact that sin is a "transgression of God's law" (1 John 3:4)   But this about exhausts our conception of sin. John also stated by inspiration   of the Holy Spirit   "All unrighteousness is sin." (1 John 5:17)  Unrighteousness is a failure to keep God's commandments. Psalms 119:72 Sin is so important that God has defined it both positively and negatively.


Sin is doing that which is wrong, and failing to do what is right.  Do we not invariably hear men pray  and rightfully so "Lord forgive us of the things committed, and the things left undone, that we should have done".   It is in the latter sense that most will answer at the judgment, Most mature people of respectability, are able to maintain such restraint and avoid doing things that will cause us to be lost.  But the ever present threat to our entrance and the occasion of concern for all of us is “What things should be doing, and am leaving them undone? “  James 5:17

17Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.


There is a concept that leads one to regard himself good, simply because he is not bad.  Harmlessness is holiness is a wide spread view. It is the acceptance that goodness is presence in the absence of badness. The Pharisees were exponents of this view in Bible times. Do you recall the man who when up to the temple to pray, and thanked God that he wasn't like other men?


The things that some people have not done, would fill a large book.  Lord I have not done this, I have not done that " And we feel vastly superior because the sum of the things that we have done is Zero.  Have you ever added up a column of Zeros?

 Make a record,  I have not killed anyone; place a zero. I do not steal;  zero  I don't commit adultery;  zero.  I don't get drunk  zero;  Add them all up,   how much do they add up to?  ZERO….   There are many in the Lord's church who have a no more  assuring hope, then the fact that they abstain from gross indulgences of sin.  On this basis alone do they seek to read their titles clear to mansions in the skies.


There Is An Impressive Lesson In The New Testament  concerning parables & judgment, namely every judgment meted out was for failing to do what was right, rather than someone doing wrong.  Think about it   The one talented man  of Matthew twenty-five, What was is crime?  A wicked  person in our eyes is one who does bad things. Hear Christ's estimation of this man.  Matt 25:26

26His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant,  30And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  


The case of the rich man in Luke chapter sixteen,  so far as we know he had not wronged God nor man. There is no evidence that he was a murderer, didn't need to steal,  was no liar. He did not engage in gross wrong. What had he done?  Nothing, absolutely nothing, where much good could have been done.  He lifted up his eyes in hell being in torment.


The barren fig tree  Matt chapter twenty-one , it was not that it produced bad fruit.  Jesus observing that the tree had leaves made His way to it, and despite the fact it was not the season for figs, pronounced a curse upon it when He found no fruit thereon. Why? The tree had leaves, but no fruit. One danger of fruitfulness is pretense. Do we have leaves of Christianity, about us, but the real fruit is lacking in our lives?


A picture of the last judgment is drawn in sharp detail in Matthew 25:31-46.  The wicked are turned away, with the charge

42For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.  


Now, how did these prepare themselves for their doom?  By lying, theft, murder, robbery, or the such likes?  Certainly we all agree that one who commits such is worthy of such doom. But theirs  was simply a life barren of all good.  It was not what they had done,  that brought condemnation, but what they had failed to do.  Soon we must put off this mortal and stand before God in judgment.


It will be of little importance what kind of business we had, where we lived, or what kind of clothes we were able to own. Such things will fade into insignificance.  It will however be vastly important whether we have lived in such a fashion that it can be said of us, "He went about doing good".



Ron Cope Minister churches of Christ


phone:  (678)617-9658