Transform Your Heart: Go the Extra Mile with Radical Kindness

Go the extra mile originated in Jesus' Sermon on the MountImagine the faces around your holiday table. Friends and family.

Survey the list of those you’ve invited to your summer BBQ. Most likely, they’re people you like.

We go the extra mile for people we care about.

Going the extra mile means doing more than is required or expected. We don’t merely prepare a meal, but consider food preferences, create an inviting color-coordinated environment, and clean the house (or hide the clutter).

Did you know ‘go the extra mile’ originates in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount?

If anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.
Matthew 5:41

This refers to the law allowing Roman soldiers to compel subjects to carry their load for up to one mile. Understandably, Jews resented this forced labor. The law supported military efforts but quite likely the soldier delighted in using his power to press a subject into service.

Interestingly, requiring a person to carry the load further than a mile constituted abuse of power. If a follower of Jesus’ sermon even started walking the second mile, the soldier faced military discipline. He, too, was under the authority of superiors; to avoid prosecution, he must compel the follower not to go the second mile. In this way the oppressed one assumes the position of power, highlighting the unjust system.

Jesus changes the encounter’s dynamics

However, we must remember that the extra mile is one of four examples Jesus gives to illustrate non-retaliation.

You have heard that it was said ‘an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you… if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.
Matthew 5:38-39,41

As we learned in the last post, ‘an eye for an eye’ instructed the courts to assign punishment in proportion to the crime. It did not govern or endorse personal vengeance. In fact, says Jesus, kingdom law forbids our instinctive human retaliatory response and calls instead for loving kindness.

Knowing the law and its consequences provides the scheming thought, “I’ll show him!” I’d enjoy putting the soldier in the uncomfortable position of demanding service I cannot refuse, then pleading with me to stop. But this, too, is retaliation. I believe Jesus wants more from us.

Don't repay evil for evil. Don't retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. 1 Peter 3:9The second mile, and the first, exemplify Jesus’ call to non-retaliation. Don’t respond to evil with evil but with generous kingdom love. Subvert the power structure by carrying the load as a friend would for another. Resist the system by ignoring the power differential. The goal is not to stick it to the soldier, but to treat him as God’s beloved. The non-violent resistance upends the world’s power structure with God’s kingdom values.

The secret is the attitude that flows from a transformed heart

Jesus’ words stunned his audience who expected a military Messiah. Don’t fight back? Don’t resist?

Knowing His disciples were sometimes slow to catch on, Jesus probably explained the idea in more depth. Be cheerful. Make conversation. Take interest in the soldier’s family. Treat him as a beloved child of God, equally precious as you are in God’s eyes.

Serve not as a victim of oppression but as a citizen of God’s kingdom. The unexpected attitude naturally opens an opportunity to explain the behavior to the surprised authority figure. The world has taught him how to maintain his power over others. But like the Jew, he is kept in his place by superiors. Both the soldier and the Jew are trapped in the power structure.

Jesus’ radical ethics turn the world’s value system upside down

In the modern workplace, a boss can unexpectedly demand work late into Friday night or even all weekend. It might mean canceling a weekend getaway or missing a family event. Keeping your job requires your compliance, but what does going the extra mile require?

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Matthew 5:44I invite you into discussion because the instruction seems ripe for abuse in contemporary settings.

  • Should we reject Jesus’ instruction because an authority figure might abuse our generosity?
  • Is going the extra mile an impractical ideal given today’s systems?
  • Are the kingdom’s ethics breaking in?
  • How does a believer transformed by the Holy Spirit serve God’s kingdom unselfishly within the world’s structures?

Going the extra mile for an unwelcome authority figure is radically challenging. Jesus didn’t say it would be easy but seeks to truly transform our hearts. We are in process, carrying God’s love into the world until it becomes who we are.

Would you like to learn how the Holy Spirit transforms our hearts? Start with these 5 Steps toward Transformation and Cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s Work. And finally, read how I had to realize I couldn’t earn God’s approval.

#seedsofscripture #readthebiblebetter #biblestudy #studyScripture #gotheextramile #sermononthemount #nonviolentresistance #Christinme #transformed #betransformed #transformedlife #sanctified #sanctification


  1. J.D. Wininger on June 18, 2024 at 9:35 PM

    God always rewards the journey sweet friend.

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