Going the extra mile: Matthew 5:21-48

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By Terry Hunt

And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Matt. 5:41 (NKJV)

My grandfather taught me that if I was going to do a job, I should do it right the first time and always go the extra mile. Going the extra mile meant doing more than what was required. He would say, “Going that extra mile will pay off after awhile.”

In Matthew 5:21-48 Jesus explains six important Old Testament laws and interprets them for his people in the light of the new life he came to give. Jesus makes a fundamental change without altering God’s standards: He deals with the attitudes and intents of the heart and not simply with the external action. The Pharisees imply that righteousness consists of performing certain actions, but Jesus says it centers in the attitudes of the heart.

What sins in our life keep us from going the extra mile? The Pharisees had a list of external actions that were sinful; however Jesus explains that sin came from the attitudes of the heart. Anger is murder in the heart (vv. 21-26); lust is adultery in the heart (vv 27-32. However Jesus states in verse 45 that by not displaying these attitudes, “you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (TLB).

Anyone who says that he lives by the Sermon on the Mount may not realize that these guidelines aremoredifficult to keep than the Ten Commandments! A son is marked by obedience to his father and by following in the father’s footsteps. For Christians, sonship means sacrificial love evidenced by loving enemies and praying for one’s persecutors. 1 John 1:12 states, “But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in his name” (NKJV).

Jesus drops the “P” word on us in verse 48: “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (NKJV). When Christians read about being perfect like God is perfect, we automatically raise the white flag and surrender. So what does the “P” word really mean? The Greek wordteleios (perfect) refers to maturity and completeness rather than to a gradually achieved moral perfection. Jesus expects us to relate to one another inagape (unconditional) love as God relates to us. He calls us to relate to all people, even enemies, in this mature way. Only then will people see God’s love in us.

By going the extra mile we demonstrate God’s love within us and to others who are in need of a Savior. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, NKJV).

 

Terry Hunt is the pastor at The Life Center, a Mennonite Brethren congregation in Lenoir, NC, and serves as district minister for the North Carolina District Conference.

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This article is part of the CL Archives. Articles published between August 2017 and July 2008 were posted on a previous website and are archived here for your convenience. We have also posted occasional articles published prior to 2008 as part of the archive. To report a problem with the archived article, please contact the CL editor at editor@usmb.org.

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