Second Mile Thinking

Say you are driving your dream car (let’s say a two-seater sports car) and stopped at a stoplight, where you see three people standing in a torrential downpour. One is an elderly lady having chest pains, your best friend who saved your life in college, and you dream girl or guy. This is not a scenario unique to me; it comes from various job applications, and one answer went this way: “I would let my best friend drive the elderly lady to the hospital while I stood in the rain with the girl/guy of my dreams.”

Inconveniencing self is a concept to which we are not easily attuned. Very few applicants who see this question think to give up the car. We limit our own options based on things we view as nonnegotiable. Of course, we would remain driving the two-seater. Therefore, we think we can only help one in this scenario. We don’t see how a bit of self-sacrifice creates a better solution.

Going An Extra Mile

Matthew 5:38-45 embodies second mile living. In this sermon on the mount, Jesus encourages His audience and us to be merciful, even to those who would wrong us. Jesus says to go above and beyond in our service and grace toward others. He tells us to exceed expectations, and the reason is found in verse 45 – that we may reflect the nature of our Heavenly Father.

What if God did not have a second mile way of thinking? How would He have viewed Creation? How would He view our shortcomings and rebellions? Where would the plan of salvation be? Remember Romans 5, reminding us that God loved us when we were most unlovable and then gives of Himself sacrificially to stand in our place. Also be mindful of II Peter 3:9, describing God’s patience, His desire for all to repent and turn to Him in time. I John 1:9 tells us of God’s faithful forgiveness, and chapter 2:1 speaks of our Advocate when we do fall into sin. God has gone the second mile in providing us mercy, grace, and forgiveness.

Luke 5:54, Luke 6:36, I Peter 5:10, I Peter 2:3 – these  passages speak to the Lord’s goodness, His graciousness, His mercy, His forgiveness. Where does He draw His line? Where does He say, “Enough is enough?” When does He decide we are unforgivable, beyond hope, or not worth the effort? God goes above and beyond in His mercy toward us. How can we do any less in the mercy we show to our fellow man?

Living God’s Word

James 2:8 calls on us to fulfill the royal law to love each other as ourselves, and he reminds us, in verse 13, that mercy will be deprived of those who live mercilessly. James then goes on to remind us that acknowledging such qualities in God means nothing if we do not live it. Jude 22 reminds us that mercy saves. We are to be merciful as God is merciful (Luke 6:36 again). Then, in Ephesians 4:25-32, Paul tells us to be as forgiving as God is.

Colossians 3:13 tells us to forebear with each other, again reminding us of the forgiveness we should embody. II Timothy 2:24 calls on us to be gentle, avoiding strife with others. Romans 14:19 calls us peace makers and peace keepers. Paul calls on us to pursue peace by calling us followers of it. These verses are not here as filler. They tell us how God views us and how we, in turn, should view others.


This begins by removing selfishness from our minds. Those Romans soldiers expected a commoner to carry their pack one mile. Jesus says to do the unexpected and go two. He calls on us to remove self as a priority, to put others first, to embody mercy and forgiveness, to live peacefully with those around us. How often should we go this second mile? In speaking of forgiveness, Jesus says to Peter that our well of forgiveness should be bottomless in Matthew 18:22. Our reservoir or selflessness and patience should be as deep.

lesson by Tim Smelser