By David Faust
Why are the hamburgers square at Wendy’s? Founder Dave Thomas insisted, “We don’t cut corners.” Years ago when my wife, Candy, worked as a waitress, the restaurant manager cut corners. He instructed the servers to dip ice cream so the scoops were hollow in the middle—cheating customers out of a few spoons of dessert. (Candy gave full scoops anyway.) When I was a college professor my students would sometimes ask, “How long does my research paper have to be?”—which meant, “How short can I make it and still get by?”
Corner-cutting is the norm, but Jesus challenges us to adopt a radical way of living where righteousness is a matter of the heart, not outward appearance, and where going the extra mile is the norm, not the exception.
Jesus taught, “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles” (Matthew 5:41). The principle of the extra mile weaves its way throughout the Sermon on the Mount. Don’t just refrain from murdering; refuse to hold a hateful grudge. Don’t just avoid adultery; guard against the lust that leads to it. Don’t pay back “eye for eye, and tooth for tooth” (v. 38); turn the other cheek. When others ask for favors, be more accommodating than they expect.
The extra mile expands our vision. It makes us think beyond what is normally considered possible and wonder, “What might happen if . . . ?”
Great achievements have resulted when men and women pushed past the boundaries of ordinary expectations and asked, “What might happen if we could land on the moon
. . . or transplant a heart . . . or build a computer that fits in the palm of your hand?” Without going the extra mile, no one would explore the mountain peaks, the ocean depths, or the mysteries of outer space. Without making second-mile sacrifices, no one would become a missionary, plant a new church, or minister in the inner city. No doctors and nurses would care for patients afflicted with contagious diseases. No soldier would step onto the battlefield to defend his loved ones.
The extra mile enhances our testimony. Unbelievers aren’t impressed by hypocrisy, but they respect a believer whose faith is sincere and whose giving is extra generous. Anyone will pray for a close friend, but what kind of heart does it take to obey Jesus’ injunction, “pray for those who persecute you” (v. 44)? Anyone will do a job for maximum pay, but what kind of worker does the extra task without being asked and without complaint—and even washes others’ feet for free? It’s easy to show kindness within our own social circles, but the Lord asks, “And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” (v. 47). Christians should value all human life, including people who are difficult to love.
When we go the extra mile, we demonstrate God’s grace. “Love your enemies” sounds like an impossible demand (v. 44), but with the Holy Spirit’s help we can go the extra mile because the Lord went the extra mile for us. When we were at odds with God, he loved and saved us (Romans 5:1-11). His unmerited favor exceeded all expectations as he “lavished on us” the riches of his grace (Ephesians 1:7, 8).
For Jesus, the extra mile led to the cross.
1. How have others gone the extra mile for you?
2. How will you go the extra mile during the coming week?
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of The Lookout.
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for January 20, 2013
Matthew 5: 33-48
Genesis 32, 33
Genesis 34, 35
Genesis 37, 38
Genesis 39, 40