08 July 2016

the extra (uncrowded) mile

A few months ago, I read something in Matthew 5 that just keeps on coming back to me.  He keeps bringing it up so I’m gonna bring it up, too, and you can take it or leave it.

Side note : I realize that lots of people have lots of things to say these days, and a lot of it is good.  Nonetheless, I hope as those who call His Word the Lamp unto our feet, we are searching out His heart and His Word above all else to shape and form and root our own hearts.  There is no better word for TODAY than His Word.  We’ve just GOT to be in it. Continually.  It's got to be the first and last Word we turn to. 

In Matthew 5, Jesus talks to the crowds about all kinds of practical life.  He talks about anger and lust.  He talks about salt and light, talks about what it actually is to be blessed, about divorce and promises, about retaliation and loving your enemies. 

There was a hot issue that I felt I had come to my stand on, and felt good about.  I saw a response made in the name of Christ, and it was both firm and done kindly and was well-grounded, and it seemed like the right response to me.

Nobody was asking for my response or anything, but in my heart, I thought lots about what should be done in such a situation, what I should have done if it had been me, and concluded that what had been done was what should have been done. 

And then I was reading Matthew 5 and it messed it all up.  You know Matthew 5, the Beatitudes and the whole turn the other cheek bit. 

I read “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles,” and then Jesus continued with, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father.  If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have?  Don’t even the tax collectors do that?”

Suddenly, it dawned on me that perhaps He was asking for something different than my standard Christian approach.

In Jesus’ day, the “enemy” everyone knew they were talking about was ROME.  Rome was the evil, Rome was the one persecuting, Rome was the violent, Rome was the oppressor. 

If there was a Roman soldier going from one point to another, he could demand from anyone the use of anything.  He could stay in your house. He could eat your food. He could ride your horse, he could force you to carry his stuff, he could take your carriage…whatever he wanted or needed, all by force, all at your expense. 

I mean, can you imagine?  People who care for our family while we are in the States could attest that this idea is even difficult among friends! Even when we ask politely to please stay in your home, to please use your vehicle, to please have your support…it is HARD! Inconvenient! Costs time and money! Messes with your life! 

Can you imagine doing it if it was for your enemy? And you had no choice? And hey probably didn’t even treat you well while you were doing it?

And Jesus asked them to not only drop everything and carry the enemy’s supplies a mile with them…but to finish the mile, and then carry it another....taking you now TWO miles from home, another hour out of your day, forcing you to spend another stretch of time with your enemy, publicly humiliated, inconvenienced and burdened.

What in the world backward approach to the enemy is this!?

I get to spend time every day training up my children.  And one of the things that comes up a lot as I teach and correct and train is WHY.  WHY does God ask us to only speak whatever is true, whatever is kind, whatever is lovely?  WHY does God ask us to obey our mothers and fathers?  WHY does God tell us to think about others above ourselves?

Every time they ask the endless why, I make them brainstorm why they think God asks us to do these things, and then assure them that if God is asking us to do something, it is not only because He wants us to obey Him, but also because He KNOWS that what He is asking is for our very best.

If He says to tell the truth, then we have to trust that telling the truth IS not only for His glory, but for our best interest, too…even if we don’t get it or can’t see how at the time.

So WHY would Jesus be telling people, already persecuted, already injusticed, to do MORE for their enemies?

Because loving our enemies sets us apart—as He is set apart—with an entirely different response.  Because loving our enemies opens doors to relationship instead of closing them.  Because loving our enemies lays down our rights for another, following in His example.  Because loving our enemies is as opposite to the world’s natural reaction as possible.  Because loving our enemies is best, big picture, for EVERYBODY.  

Because loving our enemies is obeying Christ, and we trust that He. Knows. Best.

So I start thinking about that same situation again, in which I had thought it best to kindly refuse “the enemy”, lovingly, you know, in the name of Jesus.  After all, I wouldn’t want anyone to think I actually SUPPORT the enemy, would I?  It’s important that I take a stand for my beliefs, right?  Lovingly?

Like the Christ-follower He just encouraged to publicly carrying the enemy’s shield an extra, unforced mile? 

Like Jesus, eating with the sinners instead of taking all the stands the holier thought that He should be?

Perhaps, instead of making “our stand” statements in love and with kindness, we are to be serving and eating with and sacrificing on behalf of our enemies, and THEN some?

Perhaps as Christ-followers today we are forever kindly closing doors, instead of opening doors of relationship with our “enemies”.  Regardless of how this may look “supportive” to others, regardless of how much it might cost us, perhaps we should be going two miles alongside of “our enemies”, trusting Him to know what He is talking about, to redeem situations we thought impossible, to know our hearts and to be our judge, to hold open doors slamming all around us.

The world is broke broke broken and Come, Lord Jesus.  Yes.

But today, we are still given our ONE DAY to give Him.  We are still given this breath to glorify Him with.  We are still given these two legs, and a strong voice, to stand on.

And perhaps today--instead of standing on all of our rights and convictions and beliefs, though we have them and hold them—we should be walking.

Perhaps instead of taking a stand, we are to be Matthew 5 taking a knee, turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, actively loving and uncomfortably, inconveniently, voluntarily serving ALL above and beyond.

Jesus seemed to spend a whole lot more time laying himself down than standing up for himself.

Every person on earth can love those who love them.  Can we be set apart by actually, truly, sacrificially, humiliatingly, painfully, graciously, loving those who DON'T love us, instead? Those not in our lane, not in our conviction, not in our party, not in our people, not in our nationality, not in our experience, even our very enemies?  Those who don't like us? Those who don't agree with us? Those we just don't get? Those we just can't support their actions and choices? Those who want to even KILL us?
IF we can do this, IF we can GO THE EXTRA MILE carrying the burdens of our surprised enemies, literally, Matthew 5 says we will be children of our Father.  

It says that we. will. look. like. Dad. on. that. hike.

And right now, that's about all I'm interested in.

Let's go.

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