Faithlife Sermons

Go the Extra Mile

Sermon on the Mount  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  35:24
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How are Christians supposed to respond to personal offenses? Walk through Jesus' teaching on it in Matthew 5:38-42.

Go ahead and open your Bibles to Matthew 5 again this morning.
Our study on the Sermon on the Mount has brought us back time and time again to the reality that, as grateful as we are to live in America and enjoy the freedoms we have, we are first and foremost citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Not only are we citizens, but we are servants of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
We don’t have kings in America, so perhaps this picture will help us think about this differently this morning...
<show Queen’s Guard>
Now, these men in the funny hats are a part of the Queen’s Guard. They are known for manning their posts and not flinching or reacting to comments of those coming by.
Although they will respond if you get out of line, they have a reputation for staying at their post and ignoring you unless you pose a threat to the Queen.
I wouldn’t recommend it, but you could insult them, you could antagonize them, and unless you are causing a threat, they will remain at their post.
Why? Because they care more about their calling to protect the Queen and her assets than they care about what you say about them.
As we will see this morning, that same attitude should characterize us as Christians.
Last week, we saw that we are to be people who keep their word.
At the root of that is the idea that Christians will live consistent lives.
I mentioned briefly that this idea would carry out over the next few weeks as we finish out Matthew 5.
Let’s dive into the text. Read verse 38 with me.
Again, Jesus has started with an Old Testament command that had been abused by the religious leaders in Jesus’ day.
This phrase appears three different times in the Old Testament. Each time, it is referring to a civil punishment for a crime.
To us, it sounds harsh and unjust, but it actually was a merciful law that was given to protect the accused!
Laws like this established that it the civil punishment for someone hurting someone else had to match the crime.
Maybe it will help to talk through an example: Exodus 21 is the first time we see this principle in the Bible. The setting for the command is this--Imagine two men fighting, and in the process of the fight, the one man hits the other man’s pregnant wife and sends her into premature labor. If the baby is born healthy, the man is fined. If, however, there is an injury to the baby, the man can only be punished to the extent that the baby was injured. In other words, if I am the father, I can’t kill you because my baby came out with an injury.
This was all supposed to be overseen by a judge, so it wasn’t a matter of a personal vendetta or paying someone back for how they hurt you.
However, by Jesus’ day, that’s what this had become. The Pharisees and religious leaders had used this principle as a justification to seek revenge and retribution anytime they were offended, hurt, or wronged.
In verse 39a, Jesus makes it clear that kingdom citizens don’t respond this way...
This statement has been taken out of context to justify everything from a completely pacifist stance to even complete anarchy.
However, as we will see here, Jesus is not addressing criminal offenses or military situations.
Instead, he is dealing directly with personal offenses.
We see other New Testament passages where we are told to resist and fight against evil, and that the government carries the sword to punish and protect, so that isn’t what Jesus is talking about here.
He is telling us, as kingdom citizens, how to deal with the times we are insulted, accused, and even forced to do what we wouldn’t want to do.
In fact, to sum it all up, I want to borrow a phrase from verse 41 - when wronged, go the extra mile.
Read with me verses 39b-42.
Jesus calls us to go above and beyond what is expected and required. Let’s look at the four examples he gives of places where we need to go the extra mile. After we do, we are going to come back and answer the question, “But why should I?”

1) Go the extra mile when offended.

Read verse 39 again.
Although most people don’t know where it came from, this is where we get the phrase, “turn the other cheek”.
At first, this sounds like we should just let people run over us.
That isn’t the picture at all.
In Jesus’ day, a slap to the face was one of the worst insults a person could give to another.
It was an affront to your honor and your dignity, and you were expected to retaliate to preserve your honor.
However, Jesus is prescribing that, instead of retaliating and protecting our dignity, we turn the other cheek, essentially offering another chance for a relationship with the offender.
That runs against so much of what our culture teaches us to do, doesn’t it? We have rights, we need to stand up for ourselves…
Not according to Jesus! Bible commentator William Barclay puts it this way:
Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel of Matthew—Volume 1 Chapters 1–10 (Revised Edition) The End of Resentment and of Retaliation

The true Christian has forgotten what it is to be insulted; he has learned from his Master to accept any insult and never to resent it, and never to seek to retaliate.

Woah! How can we possibly do that? We all know that, in spite of the nursery rhyme, words do hurt us!
Jesus shifts our focus here away from our rights to our duty.
Think about what we said just a minute ago about the Queen’s Guard—you are similarly employed by God!
Whether you realize it or not, if you have been saved by surrendering to Jesus as Lord, then you have committed yourself to service to him as King.
Like the Queen’s guard, then, you can endure insults to your dignity because your concern is not your rights, but duty to your King.
To follow our king, then, is to subject our personal rights and put them under our service to our Lord.
We go above and beyond what is expected by not reviling, not tearing someone else down, not treating them like they have treated us.
Not only is this true of offenses to our dignity, but it is also true that we....

2) Go the extra mile when accused.

Look back at verse 40...
Some context is helpful here too. The original words here aren’t “shirt” and “coat”; those are just the closest equivalent we have to the “tunic” and “cloak” they wore.
In those days, most people had 2-3 tunics, but only one cloak. The cloak was the outer layer that kept you warm during the day and also may have been your blanket at night.
In fact, Exodus 22:26 said that you weren’t allowed to take someone’s cloak as collateral and keep it overnight.
However, that is exactly what Jesus tells us to do as kingdom citizens.
If you were sued and had to pay, you could be forced to pay with your shirt.
Jesus said we should so desire to make things right as his followers that we are willing to even give our own cloak as well.
He is calling us to go above and beyond, not even demanding our own legal rights!
For a good example of this, read through the book of Acts and see how the Apostle Paul dealt with his rights as a Roman citizen. As a Roman citizen, he wasn’t allowed to be beaten without a trial, and he would have had to have committed a serious offense for it to be a just punishment.
In Acts 16, Paul doesn’t mention that he is a citizen and is beaten by the Romans in charge of Philippi and thrown in jail. God uses that to show his power and bring the Philippian jailer and his household into his kingdom.
However, when he is arrested in Acts 22, Paul tells them he is a citizen to stop them from beating him again. This time, he told them of his Roman citizenship which put him under the protection of Rome and kept him safe from those who would have tried to kill him.
He later uses his right as a Roman citizen to appeal to Caesar as another way to preserve his life and allow the gospel to be proclaimed to the highest levels of the Roman government.
His concern, both in neglecting and in using his rights, was always that the kingdom of God would increase, not his own personal interest.
He was willing to set aside his legal rights in service to his true King.
Are you willing to go that far, or are you always making sure you get what is coming to you and only pay out what you have to?
We honor our king by putting our responsibility to represent him to the world above our desire to have our rights.
He drives this home in a third example of how we are called to go the extra mile:

3) Go the extra mile when forced.

Read verse 41 again. This is where we actually get the key phrase we have been using.
The picture here is of a Jew, living in Israel in the days of Roman occupation.
The Romans could force anyone to carry their equipment, transport mail, or things like that.
So, if a Roman soldier came up to you and said, “Here, carry my gear,” you had to stop what you were doing and carry it a mile.
Jesus says here, “Don’t just go one mile with him—go two,” and the implication is that you do it with a smile!
Why? Because as a Christian who does what he wouldn’t want to do goes about his task with joy, he shows just how awesome our king Jesus really is!
Instead of begrudgingly doing the thing you don’t want to do , do it with joy, recognizing that this is what your King set for you to do at this moment.
Again, William Barclay says it well when he sums up these first three examples:
Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel of Matthew—Volume 1 Chapters 1–10 (Revised Edition) The End of Resentment and of Retaliation

the Christian will never resent or seek retaliation for any insult, however calculated and however deadly; the Christian will never stand upon his legal rights or on any other rights he may believe himself to possess; the Christian will never think of his right to do as he likes, but always of his duty to be o help.

The Christian life isn’t about fighting for your right to be happy, liked, comfortable, or anything else. It is about honoring and serving the God who saved you by actively loving the people around you who are created in his very image.
Jesus applies that to one other area in this passage:

4) Go the extra mile in generosity.

We are a people who should be marked by radical generosity. Look at verse 42.
When we hear about a need, our default reaction to need should be, “How can I help?”
This is actually something the religious leaders should have been known for already! God had commanded this kind of generosity toward the poor all the way back in Deuteronomy 5. They were to lend freely to others to cover their need.
Think about it: how does your heart react when you hear that someone has a need? Are you cynical and bitter, or do you look to see how God would allow you to be involved in their lives?
That doesn’t mean we will always give everyone exactly what they ask for. St. Augustine said it well this way:
Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers 1.6: Saint Augustin: Sermon on the Mount, Harmony of the Gospels, Homilies on the Gospels Chapter XX

Thus you will give to every one that asketh you, although you will not always give what he asks; and you will sometimes give something better, when you have set him right who was making unjust requests.

If what they are asking for isn’t what they need, and you help them see their true need in a God-honoring way, then you are giving them something more than what they asked for.
Jesus says that those who follow him should be marked by generosity towards those in need, going the extra mile in giving and loaning to anyone we can.
Okay, by this point, you are likely screaming, “But Sean, this isn’t fair! We deserve to be treated better than this.”
How can we possibly surrender our rights and give and let people push us around like that? Are we just being doormats and letting people walk all over us?
Let me answer that a few different ways. We do this:
Because Jesus told us to, and we do what he tells us to do, trusting that he knows what is best in the end.
Because that’s exactly what Jesus did for us:
1 Peter 2:21–23 CSB
For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He did not commit sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth; when he was insulted, he did not insult in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten but entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.
You see, not only has our king called us to serve him this way, he has also given us an example.
Jesus, although he had done nothing wrong, was willing to be falsely accused for us. He was slapped, spat upon, and yet did not defend himself.
He was accused of crimes he didn’t commit and sentenced to die for something he hadn’t done.
He was forced to carry his cross until the weight was too great, and then, he was nailed to that cross until the price for my sin and yours had been paid.
While hanging on that cross, he prayed for God to forgive those who insulted, accused, and murdered him.
If Jesus, who has done nothing wrong, would go the extra miles for us, then why would we not be able to do the same for him?
You are right—people ought to treat people better than that, and it isn’t fair for anyone who is created in the image of God to be treated with less than the highest dignity and respect.
However, when it happens to you, be prepared to endure—to go above and beyond—to walk the extra mile, just like your Savior has done for you.
Let’s pray.
[1] [2] Barclay, William, ed. The Gospel of Matthew. Vol. 1. Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster John Knox Press, 1976. Print. The Daily Study Bible Series.
[3] Augustine of Hippo. “Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount.” Saint Augustin: Sermon on the Mount, Harmony of the Gospels, Homilies on the Gospels. Ed. Philip Schaff. Trans. William Findlay and David Schley Schaff. Vol. 6. New York: Christian Literature Company, 1888. Print. A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series.
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