going The Extra Mile without going anywhere

In Matthew 5.41, Jesus gives the principle of going the extra mile. The principles goes beyond not allowing evil to compel you to evil (Mt 5.38,39) but the repaying evil with good (Mt 5.40,41)

In Acts 16.16-34 we an example of going the extra mile. Paul and Silas are unjustly beaten and wrongly imprisoned. The jailer in charge places them in the inner prison, no doubt the darkest, most hopeless cell. He locks them in the stocks, no doubt aggravating their wounds. In response, Paul and Silas pray to God and Praise Him. Their prayer and praises is followed by an earthquake that frees them from their bonds. The jailer assumes the must have fled, and moves to kill himself. But his prisoners have not escaped, and call out to stop his hand. The jailer appeals to them that he be saved, And he then takes them home from the prison, cares for them, and his whole house believes.

Paul and Silas have gone the extra mile without going anywhere. They had been wrongfully beaten and imprisoned. Yet when they had the opportunity to be released, they remained, continuing on in what had been a burden for the sake of the jailer.

Why should we go the extra mile?

The clear answer from this story is to witness. The jailer knows these cells better than any other, as well as the character of the men who have been held here. There is non among them who would not escape this prison given the opportunity. He sees his situation as hopeless. He has lost those whom he’d been given charge over and his death is so assured that he does not plan to wait for it, but take his own life.

It is then, that Paul calls to him, nad confounds his reasoning. He kne wthere was no man that would remain after the quake, and yet these men had remained, and for his sake. Their enemy.

Instantly the jailer is struck by how different these men are from any other he would have met. Others, had they not escaped, would have let him impale himself for their own freedom, had they even stayed at all. But these men had revoked their freedom for his sake.

Though he had heard their songs, and perhaps even their witness in the city, he was not convinced of the truth of their message by the earthquake, by the magnificent display of the power of their God. It was rather seeing the power of God that had played out in their hearts, giving them the courage to stay fearlessly in their cells. It was seeing the power that worked in their lives that caused him to have a change in his.

No longer was he afraid of his masters, convinced of his death. Instead of taking his life for their escape, he brings them out of their cell himself, and to his own house so that before his masters he would have no excuse. But to him it was worth his own life and even his families that they would experience the true salvation these men had.

When Christ performed miracles, he performed them because of a show of faith, not to cause faith. It is the simple witness in our lives that shows Christ’s power through us. It is by our show of love, a love that is unwavering, and not based on reciprocation. It is this character we need to cultivate to witness.

How can I go the extra mile?

I know there is nothing within me that can allow me to go the extra mile. Had I been in that jail cell, I certainly would have fled. Had I been beaten, I would have struck back. I, and I imagine you, are not willing to part with our liberty, our dignity, our time for the sake of another, the sake of one who has shown no kindness to us. But how were Paul and Silas able to stay for the sake of the jailer? And how can I repay evil with good if at times I’m unwilling to repay good with good, often taking the kindness of a friend for granted, or repaying my parents for caring for me with laziness and indolence? How can I go the extra mile?

What did Paul and Silas do? First they prayed to God. Though they had been arrested in the course of doing God’s work, and preaching the gospel, they remained strong in the faith and turned to the Lord. Though situations may seem tough, adn it may even appear as though God has abandoned us to men, as our Strength, we can trust Him, even in the darkest situations. God has promised to save us (Ps 18.1-3). Let us love him and trust him.

Along with praying, they also sang praises to God. Why when we pray do we then show a lack of faith by focusing on our circumstances rather than on the power of God. Paul and Silas praised God before their deliverance. But what if they had spoken discouragement? Speaking of how damp the floor is, how dark the room, how rough and immovable their stocks? Quickly their thoughts would turn from the power of God expressed in their prayer to the overwhelming impossibility of being freed from such a cell.

We must behold Christ and His strength rather than the obstacle. If we do so, we will be transformed into the image of Christ (2 Cor 3.18). It is only by Christ’s strength, by being like Christ that we can hope to show the love that Jesus spoke of in the sermon on the mount.

If we keep a joyful spirit, refraining from complaint, and showing the love of Christ, we will shine in the world with the life of Christ that the Jailer saw in Paul and Silas (Phil 2.14-16)


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