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Go the Extra Mile

By Marjorie Foerster Eddington

Can we “go the extra mile”?

We hear it in sports. We hear it in school. We usually think it means to go above and beyond what is required of us. We don’t just squeak by; we do our best and then some—like Olympic athletes do. And this is a great habit to adopt because we’re able to impact and change lives in a positive way (including ours).

Did you know this phrase came from biblical times, when a Roman soldier could force any subject to carry his gear for him for a mile? Yep. The Jews at that time were not free people. No matter what they were doing, they had to submit or face the consequences. We see this type of situation throughout history and across cultures. Domination and abuse of power is unfortunately common and is absolutely wrong.

But instead of getting riled up and denouncing Roman domination, Jesus taught his fellow Jews that “if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile” (Matt 5:41 NRSV). And go willingly, without arguing, and most probably happily. Now that turns things upside down.

How would going the extra mile change the atmosphere of the situation and maybe even the attitude of the people involved?

  • It would ease tension and eliminate conflict. There would be nothing to fight about.
  • It would take the sting out of the chore—no resentment. Rather, we would let the anger go. It wouldn’t be a big deal. We’d see ourselves as freely choosing rather than being obligated to doing something. We’d gain a sense of power and maintain dignity.
  • And that, in turn, would have an impact on the one who is forcing us to do something—maybe not instantly. But maybe there would be a softening. Perhaps they’d realize what they’re doing is an abuse of their power.
  • It could bring healing and change.

None of us likes to be forced to serve or threatened with punishment. But if we are, or even if we’re not, we have a choice. We can holler, retaliate, and increase tension and conflict, or we can listen to what God tells us to do and then follow God’s command. We can do more of God’s bidding.

This doesn’t mean we roll over and become weak. We take a powerful stand—just in a different way. We do not give up, or change who we are, or let bullies get away with things. We stand up for what is good and right; we maintain our identities and our dignity—all with the strength and grace of God. We stand with loving service—service to God, and therefore, to others.

Serving others with love is one of the fundamental teachings of Jesus. Today, we’re focused on serving—working with others to make their lives better, to forgive, to build up communities, to repair relationships, to provide food for the hungry and shelter for the homeless.

Are we willing to go the extra mile in relationships so that we increase peace and decrease strife, tension, division?

  • Are we willing to give up our own opinions (which can change) and see another’s perspective to bring harmony to a situation or to make someone else feel valued?
  • Are we willing to listen to someone’s complaints, perhaps about us, without defending ourselves, blaming them, and then getting caught up in an argument? Can we just say, “Thanks for the feedback,” and move forward? That’s hard, by the way.
  • Are we willing to stop what we’re doing, which may be very important, and help someone else, which may be even more important?
  • Are we willing to forgive someone who has hurt us or someone we love so that we become peacemakers and feel the peace of God in our hearts and help them feel it in theirs?

Such loving service requires us to give up any sense of personal pride or ego and rely totally on God for our sense of self-worth and dignity. It means we go to God to tell us who we are and who they are. And we remember that it’s more important to be loving than it is to be right. We can do what Jesus taught. We can go the extra mile.