Going the extra mile

ONE PHRASE which annoys me is “go the extra mile”. My daughter is in full agreement on this since we have both at various times in our lives worked for the sort of company which uses management-speak as a substitute for intelligent communication with its employees. The follow-up is often “the rewards will be great” which is a further cause for gnashing of teeth because the rewards for going that extra mile never materialised in the wage packet of the dumb donkey that plodded on. Not in my experience at least. Perhaps his line manager was more fortunate

Of course, as Christians we ought to be happy to go the extra mile because we have been assured on the very best authority that the rewards will indeed be great and we have every reason to trust our Manager when He tells us so.

If I were a betting man, which I used to be but am no longer, I would risk a small wager that the advocates of (other people) going that extra mile do not have a clue where the phrase originates. We, of course, know better because it comes from Matthew’s gospel (ch5 v41) which was read as the Gospel for last Sunday (as I am sure you remember!)

We are still in the Sermon on the Mount with Our Lord continuing to expound on His text of two weeks ago: “Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come to fulfil them”. And He adds that not one iota of the Law shall disappear until its purpose is achieved. It would do us all good, I am sure, to read and to re-read the whole of Chapter 5 (and of course the whole of all the gospels as often as we can) because this is another vital part of Our Lord’s message that the Commandments are still in place, there has been no resiling from the law as it was given to Moses but that we are now grown-up enough to understand that “Thou shalt not kill” was only the bare bones of what is needed for a righteous person to earn a place in paradise.

We must not just refrain from killing our brother but even a falling-out and harsh words are something to be repented of. Not just the act of adultery is sinful but so also is the thought, which (I think) is apart from and more speficic than the general command not to covet your brother’s wife which in most versions of the Commandments outside the Catholic Church is not “itemised” separately.

So more is going to be demanded of those who choose to follow Our Lord than simply the Commandments. The parable of the Good Samaritan tells us that acts of charity were not anything new. Nobody expressed surprise at the thought of someone stopping to help an injured man and I suspect that the man who asked “who is my neighbour?” knew quite well what the answer was going to be. The parable simply reinforces what most people knew all along if only anyone had ever asked them to think about it.

Be generous and outgoing in your dealings with your fellow human beings is at least part of the message. And that means all of them. Any fool can be pleasant with those who are pleasant with him. The test of what sort of a person you are is how you treat those who maltreat you. Do you sink to their level and trade insult for insult, blow for blow? As Our Lord might have said but didn’t quite, “animals do that and you are supposed to be better than animals.” Do you, as we say, “rise above it”?

Read again that passage from last Sunday, “… for He causes the sun to rise on bad men as well as good and the rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike.” And think also what Our Lord says about judging, and motes and beams and remember that at times we are all “bad” and “dishonest” and in need of the very love that Our Lord commands that we show to those who are not our friends.

Maybe by our generosity, our “going the extra mile” they may become our friends because it is worth recalling something that Abraham Lincoln said when he was asked why he refused to destroy his enemies and was always lenient towards them. “Surely, ” he replied, “I destroy my enemies by making them my friends.”



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