I remember watching an NFL playoff game between Seattle and Minnesota. The game was in Minneapolis and the temperature at game time was – 6! (It did warm up during the game to at least -2). Most of the players (especially the offensive and defensive lineman) were wearing short sleeves. Part of the reason for that is that long sleeves give the opponent something to grab and that’s not good. The other aspect is that football is a tough, physical game and you lose your mental edge if you go out in cold weather looking like it’s affecting you (i.e., wearing long sleeves).
I really didn’t feel too sorry for them. Most of them are making more for their three-and-a-hours of misery than we make in a year so they were being well-compensated for their discomfort. What was much more compelling was the fans that were there. They paid good money to come sit in such ridiculously cold temperatures to cheer on their teams. They could have watched the game in the warmth of their homes for nothing and enjoyed clean restrooms and free food to boot. But there they were in sub-zero weather supporting their team.
That’s commitment. You may not agree with it but you have to appreciate it.
Christ spoke of commitment in Matthew 5:41 when He talked about going the second mile. Palestine was an occupied country in Jesus’ time. The Romans were in power and according to their law a soldier could conscript a man to carry his backpack for a mile. You can imagine the resentment this must have caused. It was bad enough having foreigners in your homeland ruling over you but to be at their beck and call any time—that had to be chafing. It’s not hard to envision a seething mad Jewish man picking up a soldier backpack and stewing the whole mile. But it was the law—what could they do about it?
The point of Christ’s teaching is that there was something they could do about it. They could make the decision to view it as an opportunity rather than a burden. They could do more than what was required. They could leave the soldier scratching his head . . . and just maybe searching his heart.
Most people walk at a rate of three miles an hour. That’s twenty minutes for a mile. Going the extra mile was giving the soldier twenty minutes of your time (the first mile didn’t count—everyone “had” to do that). If some fans in Minnesota can sit for three-and-a-half hours in sub-zero temperatures, can we as followers of Christ give someone twenty minutes of our time?
Of course, it’s highly possible that going the extra mile for someone won’t be this cut and dried. Involvement with others rarely is. And it probably won’t be quantifiable. There’s also the possibility that it will be open-ended. But then again Jesus’ point isn’t really about the extra mile—it’s about the extra mile attitude.
You know, the kind of attitude God displays toward us.