How does this apply to us as Christians living today?
ESV - 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
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This is one of the very interesting passages in the Bible. First and foremost, it pretty much teaches us that Christianity is not a one off. Secondly, to be Christian is not simply a wishful matter. To be Christian is rather a matter of the heart much as it is practically to be visible to everyone. For this kind of character is the core and foundation of the Christian Faith. For consider that when He is teaching in the context of this passage, Jesus begins with reminding us how things had been done in the antiquated manner; "You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth (Matt 5:38). Truly so, but search deeper in your heart how you can turn both an overt and covert enemy into a friend (Matt 5:39). On this then, Jesus teaches us how and what to do to sow the seeds of love rather than enmity (Matt 5:40-41). For whatever a man sows, that he will reap (Gal 6:7). Violence can never touch and later alone transform a heart. And truly so, scripture recognizes that there is an evil person (a person with no fear of God) (if to say). But what is commendable here is that; evil should not be answered with evil. What is most commendable is that there should be a concerted effort to overcome evil with good. Thus the Apostle Paul teaches that we should never get weary in doing good (Gal 6:9). You know it gets tiring to carry on doing good in the face of the overwhelming force of evil. This thus calls for the bearing of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). Yet in all this, we ought to learn that we should not only be Christians when it is comfortable to be, but much more so when we are faced with the overwhelming force of evil. In this, Jesus was tested and pretty reliably proven the foretold Savior and the indisputable Son of God (Philippians 2:5-8). For it is then that one is truly proven a Christian (in the true sense of it). Jesus goes on admonishing us that; one's love for another is pretty much proven when you love those who hate you (Matt 5:46), (Luke 6:32). And this pretty proves one is truly in the image of God; for in this, one is counted a child of God and we are to be perfect as God is perfect (Matt 5:45, 48). But we also learn from this passage that reward does not only come from sticking to doing what we are legally required to, or what we have been asked to do, but much more so by one overlooking and overstepping their legal rights and bear the fruit of forbearance. For this involves one denying oneself their legally recognized freedoms for the sake of touching a soul (1Cor 9:19). Our help must not be obvious but it must be where and when it is hardest (Luke 11:5-8). And this is what is called sacrifice. For in critical terms, consider what Jesus teaches; "And if anyone forces you to go one mile, walk him two miles" (Matt 5:41). For if you walk him the extra mile, it is proof of your willing sacrifice. Rather that you can take another by your own initiative. This is what we are much more so to be rewarded for rather than simply to do what we have been asked to. Do you realize this rhymes well with the scripture that; "...so that you may be sons of your Father who is 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" (Matt 5:45). That is; God does more than what we ask Him for because He (God) knows that we need it. And since we are to be like God, for it should be that when we spot the need, we should be willing to do even more than what we are legally required or have been asked to do. For our help should be dependent not on what we have been asked to do, but rather the need that we spot is there (Luke 10:25-37). In this, it proves we are not doing anything simply to wish away, but rather to do everything only driven by love (1Cor 13:1-8), (2Cor 5:14-15). Conclusively then, in all this, we learn that it is not simply a wishful matter. For Christianity is much in the heart as it should be practical (Matthew 5:13-16).
This passage, which Jesus spoke as part of his Sermon on the Mount as recorded in Matthew's gospel, is discussing the way in which an original commandment given by God in the Mosaic Law ["You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Leviticus 19:18)] had been altered over time through popular usage into the very different "human" saying (for which Jesus did not cite any Old Testament basis or authority, because there was none), "You shall love your neighbor, but hate your enemy." It is a natural tendency, a trait of our fallen human nature that has been contaminated by sin, to want to consider ourselves superior to others and to justify our own behavior, although we ourselves may know that what we are doing is wrong or sinful. And even when we do comply with the letter of God's commands, we often do so grudgingly, or in a manner that will be the least that we can possibly do, or that will cause us the least amount of inconvenience; rather than being motivated by genuine love for others, and by concern for their best interests. As Jesus said in Matthew 5:45, this is not how God treats us. He causes the sun to rise for the benefit of both the evil and the good, and sends rain to allow crops to grow in order to feed both the just and the unjust. In the passage being asked about, Jesus is therefore enjoining those listening to Him (and us today as well) who seek to be His followers and to serve God, to demonstrate the same kind of bountiful, extravagant love and service in dealing with others -- even (and especially) to those who do not love and serve us in return, or who actually seek to do us harm -- that God has displayed toward them, and to be willing to do even more on behalf of those others than they would ask, require, expect, or (in human terms) deserve, such as when that service consists of actions that are not convenient or pleasant for us to do, or even when we are being compelled to perform them. (As Jesus pointed out in Matthew 5:46-47, if we love or "put ourselves out" only for those who do the same for us in return, what are we doing that is different from anyone else? Even people who do not follow God or who are notorious for their wrongdoing -- people whom we would likely consider ourselves superior to from a human standpoint -- do that much.) Our willing readiness to do more, or to go further, than is required or necessary puts us in control of the situation; acts as a witness and an example of godliness for those (whether needing and seeking our help, or hostile to us) with whom we interact; and makes us true God-pleasing disciples.
Jesus was speaking to people who were living under an occupation army and did not have the privilege of a free society and in this instance was referring to Roman Legionary Law which allows a Roman soldier to force a civilian to carry his kit for one kilometre but no further. During His discourse on the mount He made reference to the occupation to be helpful to the Jews.
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