If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. (Mathew 5, 41)
One of the major tourist attractions in California is the 17-mile drive along the Pacific coast. You pass through Carmel, a small idyllic town place. Clint Eastwood was mayor there in the 1980s. Also famous is Lone Cypress, supposedly the most photographed tree in the world. For this 17 miles of beautiful coastline you have to pay a few dollars entrance fee of course. But you can also do without it and leave everything to the side. It´s simply your choice.
Let me tell you about a man who had no choice at all: Simon of Cyrene, a man from Libya in North - Africa. The Roman soldiers forced him to carry the cross of Jesus: “As the Roman soldiers led Jesus to Golgotha, the place of execution, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way back from his fields and laid the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.” (Luke 23, 26)
The Romans could force any non-Roman to accompany somebody for a mile. To be an escort, to show the way or carry a burden. Without a cent of income, of course. Just like Simon. He came home from his work in the fields. And now, he was forced to carry the heavy cross after work. He had to do it! No one asked him if that´s what he wanted to do!
Jesus is asking us Christians not only to accompany someone for just "one mile", but voluntarily to go for another mile! To go further than you have to. To carry on further than I have thought to carry in the first place. Isn't Jesus putting a heavy burden on us? A burden far too heavy!?
Literally, to go this "second mile" is probably to be understood in the least cases. The example of a young woman from Israel comes into mind. Her story is written in the Bible, in the Old Testament (2.Kings 5). It is the story of a deportation:
“Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a successful man in view of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy. Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would go and see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would be able to cure him from his leprosy.”
I'm sure this young woman has suffered greatly. Deported and now as a slave in the household of a Syrian general. A seriously ill general! She is now in a place she didn´t choose herself. She is working in a place and among people she did not choose either. She suffers the same fate as before and after her probably millions of other people had to face. Deported, enslaved. Robbed of the future.
What this young woman does in this situation is unimaginable: she shows compassion for the person to whom she owes her fate. She does not wish her master to die. She does not curse him. She does not rejoice in his suffering. On the contrary. She wants him to be well again. That he can be cured. She wants a new life for him. She's even showing him a way to be cured. She knows someone who could help.
For me, that means going the second mile willingly. This woman, whose name we don't know, helps. Through her help, Naaman finds a new life with God. It's a very long way to go. But one day he will be healed in his body, in his soul and spirit. It all began with the "second mile", which a young woman decided to go with him.
What is your current situation in life? Is your life like a dream journey along the 17-Mile-Drive? Sunny with beautiful vistas? Or do you live in a place you didn't choose, where you are forced to live? With people you would not have chosen either!
Do you suffer from a disease like Naaman? What cross do you have to bear? Would you be happy if someone accompanied you along a difficult path through life? If someone simply turns your misery into his own burden? Just as the apostle Paul says: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6, 2). “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4,2)
I am convinced that there are many ways to accompany a fellow human being on his "second mile" still. Voluntarily. With the love and power that the Holy Spirit gives us. And I am also convinced: only in the spirit of Jesus can we go along the "second mile".