As we journey through these uncertain times, each day Sean will seek to post a thought or reflection, a Bible verse or a prayer
Tuesday 2 June 2020
One of the things that really irks me is when I come across people ‘who couldn’t be bothered!’ It doesn’t happen very often. But occasionally you meet people who appear to have made apathy one of their key life choices! And when indifference emanates from people you depend on it is really frustrating.
One of Jesus’ most memorable phrases concerns going the extra mile. It appears in Matthew 5: 41:
‘If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.’
The phrase is often interpreted as suggesting that Christians should develop a culture of excellence. As everything we do is an expression of love and worship, we should do it to the very best of our ability. We should not be like the church in Laodicea, which according to the Revelation 3 was neither hot or cold but lukewarm.
The background to the passage comes from the practice of Roman Soldiers forcing locals to carry their pack. According to the imperial law, a soldier had the right to compel a local to act as a guide or porter for the distance of 1000 paces, just short of a modern mile. An example of this appears in the Easter story when Simon of Cyrene was forced to carry Jesus' cross. (Matthew 27:32) Interestingly, the Greek word that we translate as ‘compel’ only appears here and in Jesus command to go the extra mile.
So far this is all very simple and straight forward. In whatever we do, we should all make that extra bit of effort. As a minister, I should strive to be a good minister. I should be diligent and hardworking and not be content with second best. The same point applies in buisness. One of the formulas for a successful business is QQMA. QQ stands for quality and quantity of service that you render. MA stands for mental attitude. Put the two together and you have a success. You strive for excellence in delivering that service, in terms of quality, quantity and your personal attitude towards your customers.
However, there is another way of interpreting the passage. It is also a call to passive resistance! A soldier was himself under the imperial law. They were not permitted to extend the distance beyond one mile. Jesus instruction to go the extra mile, would place the person giving the instruction in conflict with their own law.
There is more. Jesus words would have shocked his audience. At the time of the New Testament, the Romans were viewed as an unwelcome occupying force. Many Jewish groups refused to cooperate with the Roman authorities, including acting as porters, refusing to pay taxes etc.(It has been suggested this loathing and refusing to obey was a principle cause of the great Jewish revolt in the year 66 AD.) You can imagine their absolute indignation and outrage at being told by Jesus not to just go one mile, but the extra mile!
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[h] 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
To the Church in Laodicea
14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
What is Jesus trying to say here and what impact should it have on our lives?
Is Jesus speaking about the dangers of apathy and indifference? This ‘spiritual sleeping sickness’ can have a devastating effect on the church and our personal walk with God.
Is Jesus speaking about developing a culture of excellence, that following him requires real commitment?
Is Jesus speaking about passive resistance to injustice?
Or is he saying all of these things and more?
Rev Sean Swindells
Cruden Parish Church
Sometimes going that “Extra Mile” can be difficult.
Father, may I look at every opportunity that I come across as an opportunity to go the “Extra Mile” for someone else. Father, I belong to You and everything within my day is a blessing that You have provided. Thank You for going the “Extra Mile” for me!
Hebrews 13:8 – ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.’
God of our fathers and mothers
You have reigned with Sovereign skill
In storms and stories of years past
‘It’s in looking back’ they tell us
‘That we can see and say: God has always been faithful.’
We praise you for what you’ve already done, God
And we thank you for those
Who yesterday marvelled at your work
And told us all about it
Singing confidence in you into our psyche
God of our brothers and sisters
You rule today, and you care today
In a world shaken, turned upside down
You are the only unchanging One
Forgive us for the things we’ve held too tightly
Being shaken from our grasp:
Complacency, material security, self-interested freedoms
Thank you for the green shoots of life
Growing up through coronavirus cracks:
Community, delight in the local, environmental rest, new prayerfulness
Kingdom values visible anew
Kingdom borders bulging outwards
God of our children
You hold their destiny in your hands
They are not victims of fate
But inheritors of faith
What world will you remake from the rubble?
What great new thing do you mean to bring?
May our eyes be open to what you will do in the aftermath
May our hearts and arms be opened wider to you, and one another
May our imaginations be filled with Spirit-sparked creativity
To become the Church you mean us to be tomorrow
To become the Church you call us to be today
To become the Church you’ve been planning to build since yesterday
Into this world, both ravaged and ripe
Come, Lord Jesus Christ
The same yesterday, today and forever
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
you will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power
and the glory are yours
now and forever.
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
This day and forever more.