Go the Second Mile
Jesus’ first great sermon was a clear statement of what the law really meant, alerting the people to know that that which “was said to them of old,” was not the version He had come to bring them.
But the people who gathered to hear that wonderful Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew 5-7, came with erroneous concepts of the law and the kingdom of God. They had been raised up to know humanity’s ways so that their expectation of the Messiah’s kingdom was quite different from what it would in fact be.
Before He began to explain the law as He had given it and would live it, He warned that, even though it might appear so to them, he had not come to do away with the law but to establish it. He said to them:
Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-20).
The Pharisees’ lives were as fine an example as can be found of living the law according to human interpretation of how it should be kept. It was to deliver people from their concept of keeping the law and replace it with the true one, that Christ came to this earth.
As He progressed through His sermon, repeatedly He swept aside the law as they understood it to read and replace it with the law as God intended that it should be read and obeyed. The hearers’ evaluation of Christ’s presentation and position would depend then on their having a spiritual perception of what he was saying.
Great profit would be gained by studying every statement made by Christ in this sermon, but time and space will not be taken to do this here. A selection will be made of that passage that reveals, if not better than any of the others the principles of the law as Christ espoused them.
Jesus said, “you have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I tell you . . . “ (Matthew 5:38, 39).
So Christ segregated the teaching of the past from His own. The old, He classified as their way, against which He set forth that which was His way. He made no attempt to compromise with the old teaching or to apologize for what He offered. It was the truth and, as such, it had to be accepted.
To many, Christ adopted a course here that laid Him open to the charge of denying the law as God in the Old Testament had taught it. It was not the writings or teachings of the heathen that Christ was disavowing here but, to all appearances, the word of God through Moses.
“And God spoke all these words saying . . .” (Exodus 20:1). Then follow the Ten Commandments, after which the people are terrified and plead with Moses to speak with them instead of God. “Then the LORD said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel’ . . .” (verse 22).
Many directions follow until these verses are reached: “but if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” (Exodus 21:23-25).
God spoke these words to Moses with the direction that they be told to, and obeyed by, the people. The people did obey them, confident that in so doing they were following the Lord’s instructions. Then Jesus came and denied that that was His way, swept all that aside, and gave the people anew code of behavior.
The appearances certainly point to Christ as being at variance with His Father on what the law was and how it should be kept. Small wonder then that the Pharisees, who subscribed so vigorously to the old Mosaic law, should regard Christ as being the worst kind of lawbreaker.
A solution to this problem offered in our day is to teach dispensationalism. Such a belief would see one law of the people before the advent of Christ, and another and more beautiful law for the people thereafter.
Such a resolution of the problem must be rejected because the perfect law is an unchangeable as the God who gave it. If the Lord gave one law for the people in given age and situation and subsequently changed this for later generations, then He is no better than changeable men and women who are forever modifying the laws to suit changing circumstances. Satan would then have the argument he needed to win the controversy. He would point to the changing of the law as clear proof that it was imperfect and needed to be changed.
There is yet another explanation that reveals the character of God in wonderful beauty, shows that Christ was not at variance with the father, and establishes the truth that God has never changed His law in the slightest. It, together with its Author, is the “same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
This explanation will be fully developed when we examine the various incidents of the Old Testament period. It will be seen that God has only one way for Himself and His people. But there comes a time when the people reject His way and turn to their own, yet still desire God to be with them. In great mercy, He provides directives effecting, if obeyed the best conditions possible under humanity’s system. It will be shown when this point is reached that God acted out the role of a Savior exclusively, and that Christ’s sole objective was to bring them back from their own way to God’s. When this characteristic of behavior on God’s part is seen, the last problems in understanding His character will disappear.
Having relegated the teaching, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, to the errors of humankind’s ways, Christ then set forth His amplification of the law.
But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away (Matthew 5:39-42).
These are not the patterns of behavior advertised as ideal through the entertainment media. Nothing could be more contrary. To the person of the world, there is no sense in Christ’s words. If the movie industry were to prepare films depicting these principles, no one would be interested in viewing them. They would be a financial failure.
The average person rejects the principles of Christ’s words because they see in that way the whole world taking advantage of them to the point where they would be divested of everything they had. To them, there is no more frightening prospect. Therefore, most people have no disposition to surrender the security provided by their defending and protecting their rights and possessions. They prefer to work at being more powerful than their enemy so that they can hit back harder than they can be hit. People find safety in this doctrine of deterrence.
Christ continued His instruction in these words:
You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father 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. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).
When Jesus said, “Love your enemies,” he placed no time limitation upon this stipulation. He did not say to love them as long as there was any hope of saving them, and then hate them to destruction. He simply said, “Love your enemies.” Therefore they are to be loved – forever. The time must never come when the children of God ceases to love his or her enemy, blessing them and doing good to them. Christians are to know no other way.
The disciples sat nearest to Christ when He spoke these works, but they did not understand this message as is evident from the question Peter asked much later.
Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, How often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times:” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
Seventy time seven is four hundred and ninety times. Did Christ mean that we are to carefully count till we reach this number and then stop forgiving? No, that is not the way these words are to be understood. Rather, Christ desired to convey the idea that there is no time when we are to cease forgiving.
It is impossible to strike back at those who strike first and at the same time manifest a forgiving spirit. As surely as forgiveness is to be forever, the turning of the other cheek is likewise to be forever.
In this discourse, Christ is magnifying the law. He is explaining the way in which God desires His directives, “Thou shalt not kill, steal, and lie,” to be understood, consider the difference between humanity’s philosophy and the teachings of Jesus Christ. People say that if you enemy strikes you, strike back – harder. If a person kills someone you love, kill him or her. If someone curses you, curse them in return; if an individual does evil, return evil for it.
But Jesus said to return love for hate, blessing for cursing, and goodness for evil. If lies are told about you, do not lie in return; if they steal your goods, do not seek to steal them back again; if they seek your life, do not seek theirs. This is to say that the law is to be kept under all circumstances. There is neither time nor place where the law is to be broken in order to assure that it is kept.
Having laid out these guidelines for human behavior, Christ confirmed that this was the way in which His Father practiced the law. He told His hearers that by so doing they would “be sons of” their “Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).
Jesus identified the children of God as those who obey the law in the way He declared it should be obeyed. They were such, He affirmed, because they were doing as the Father did.
A distinguishing mark of God’s children is that they do turn the other cheeks, do go the second mile, do love their enemies, and do bless and do good to those who return them only evil. Individuals who return evil for evil, do not turn the other cheek, do not go the second mile, and do not bless those who despitefully use them are not children of God.
This identification of the children of God is powerfully meaningful. The relationship is spiritual for it is in this, and not the physical sense, that we are God’s children. It conveys the idea that there must first be the same character in the Christian as in the Father before there can be the corresponding behavior without. Those who are God’s children have the same character as He has. It is a character received by the process of spiritual regeneration.
By the transforming agency of His grace, the image of God is reproduced in the disciples; he becomes a new creature. Love takes the place of hatred, and the heart receives the divine similitude. This is what it means to live “by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” This is eating the Bread that comes down from heaven (The Desire of Ages, p. 391).
As surely as they have the same character, they will have the same behavior. They will keep the law exactly as God, the King of Righteousness, keeps it.
Jesus said, Be perfect as your Father is perfect. If you are the children of God you are partakers of His nature, and you cannot but be like Him. Every child lives by the life of his father. If you are God’s children, begotten by His Spirit, you live by the life of God. In Christ dwells “all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9): and the life of Jesus is made manifest “in our mortal flesh” (II Corinthians 4:11). That life in you will produce the same character and manifest the same works as it did in Him. Thus you will be in harmony with every precept of His law; for “the law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul.” Psalm 19:7, margin. Through love “the righteousness of the law” will be “fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” Romans 8:4 (thoughts from the Mount of Blessings, pp. 77, 78).
But it was Christ, the Truth, who testified these things of God. Therefore, they are the truth in the strictest sense. God does love His enemies.
Of all the beings who have ever existed, no one has ever hated God more fiercely, cursed Him more savagely, done evil to Him more extensively, or persecuted Him more relentlessly than Satan. Could it be possible that God loves Satan even to this very day? Could it be possible that He blesses him in return for his curses, does good to him who hates Him so much, and prays for him who is despitefully uses and persecutes Him?
Christ answers that question, testifying that that the Father does all this. The form of His testimony lays out what we are to be and do in order to reproduce the behavior and character of the Father. In doing so, He makes no exception of the devil. He does not counsel us to love our enemies except for Satan. He simply says, “Love your enemies.” Therefore, anyone who can be classified as an enemy is to be loved. Satan certainly comes into this classification, for he is the archenemy.
Therefore, if doing this makes us the children of God and thus the reproduction of Him, then God loves His enemies, including Satan. He blesses him as far as it is possible for the blessings to reach him, does him good where he can, and will continue to do so for as long as Satan exits. If He did not, then Christ bore a false witness of His Father.
To understand the attitude of genuine love that the Father has for His lost son, a distinction must be made between love together with fellowship, and love without it.
God has no fellowship with the devil. They do not see each other, nor do they work together. Their interests and objectives are completely opposite. God does not support any of the devil’s activities, even though he is the recipient of God’s blessings just as the most wicked person receives the outflow of God’s life and love in the seedtime and harvest, the rain and the wind, and the continued protection from total and final disaster. The devil takes all these blessings and uses them to war against God, but for this God is not responsible. He gives the blessings for their good, but the perversion of them is the responsibility of those who misuse the gift.
Be assured on the strength of Christs witness of His Father that God loves the devil and will therefore only bless and do him good. This means that God will never take Satan’s life but would reach out to save him if possible. This is love on an incredible scale.
When Jesus bore this beautiful and truthful testimony of His Father, He knew all that God had done in the Old Testament. He was also familiar with the view that people took of what God had done. Human beings saw God pouring good upon the dwellers in Sodom and Gomorrah for a limited time, after which He exchanged the blessings for cursing, and the good for evil as He poured upon them the flood of fire and brimstone. They saw the same picture in the good, the plagues of Egypt, the obliteration of the Canaanites, the death by night of Sennacherib’s army, and many other instances.
If the view of those things as held by people then and now is correct, then Christ could never truthfully say what he said of His Father on the mount of blessing. Therefore, for Christ to say what He said from personal conviction, He must have held a very different view of what the Father did in the Old Testament from what people held then and since, for humanity’s view of God and the picture of that Christ presented of Him are two altogether conflicting concepts.
Christ lived and taught the character of God. He presented God as the perfect keeper of the law. Christ neither knew nor presented a God who had one law for Himself and another for the people.
God is in a position of power from which He can obliterate any opposition by a single word. Therefore, humanity might well tremble in dread before such a God if He were indeed altogether such as ourselves.
The law was not given by God to protect Himself from humankind. It was God’s perfect love gift to human beings to protect them from themselves and from the possibility of perverting the powers given to them for life and blessing into a cataclysm of destruction. This aspect of the law was studied back in post 7.
Serving humanity in these ways, the law is a wonderful thing indeed, but the greatest wonder of all is that it actually protects human beings from God. In setting out the principles of that law, God has declared what He is and what He will and will not do. He has stated that He will never lie, never steal, and never kill no matter what situation may arise to call for or to justify such things. The enunciation of the law of God is God’s own pledge that we are forever secure from His doing any such thing no matter how we may treat Him in return.
When God commits Himself to a pledge of that nature, there is absolute assurance that He will never vary from it in the slightest degree.
By the misrepresentation of the testimony of God’s word, Satan has convinced people that, if ever God did make such a pledge, He certainly has not honored it. Because the persuasion of people to Satan’s lies about God is to extensive and long-standing, it will be very difficult for the average person to accept that God has made and honored such a commitment. The mind, long trained to see the workings of God in a certain light, will swiftly object that the great rebellion demanded that god arise to cleanse the universe of the curse by actively destroying the offenders. To the human mind, this is the only available solution to the problem. People do not understand the wisdom and power of God as it will be employed to put down the great rebellion. They do not see that there is another and infinitely better way to deal with the rebellion than counterforce.
Christ neither shared nor taught such a view. He presented a Father who loved His enemies and who would give them only blessing and goodness.
No ruler in human history is like unto our God. There is no king, governor, president, dictator, lord, prince, emperor, or any other kind of ruler who has pledged themselves never to lie to steal from, or kill any one of their subjects no matter how treasonous, ravenous, slanderous, insurrectionist, arsonist, murderous, thieving, cruel, activist, reactionary, or criminal that subject may become. Earthly potentates know only one way to deal with such elements in society and that is to meet force with force. There is no turning of the other cheek, no going the second mile, no love for their enemies, and no blessing of those who do them evil.
But what no earthly ruler has ever done or ever will do, God has done. Truly, His ways are mas much higher than our ways as the heavens are above the earth. When the real nature of God’s righteousness is understood and appreciated, it will call forth from the hearts of those who thus see it a rapture of praise and adoration otherwise impossible. They will then begin to understand and testify with the words of the Bible writers: Among the gods there is none like You, O Lord; Nor are there any works like Your works. All nations whom you have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and shall glorify Your name. For You are great, and do wondrous things; You alone are God (Psalm 86:8-10).
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in His holy mountain (Psalm 48:1).
Let it be clearly recognized that while God Himself pledged that he would never destroy the violators of His principles, He did not, because He could not guarantee that sinners would not be destroyed. On the contrary, He warned that sin is the act of separating from God, so that there remains no protection from the destructive forces thus set in motion. May you come to see God as Christ New Him.
Our next post will be titled: “An Eye for an Eye. We will explore the following questions:
Jesus started His ministry (and ended it, too) by coming in contravention to the “Eye for Eye” laws. Were those laws His perfect will? IF not, then what would we call them?
How does cultural context bear upon the way God works with humanity?
Can and does God give instructions built upon imperfect sinful foundations?
If you have not had the opportunity to read the other posts on this subject of God and His character I invite you to click the links below.
|01 He Wanted to Teach Respect||05 Approaching the Study of God|
|02 Why a Tree to Teach Respect||06 The Constitution of the Government of God|
|03 The End of the Great Controversy||07 A Perfect Law|
|04 Isaiah’s Wonderful Prophecy||08 God’s Principles Tested|
|09 A Summary of God’s Constitution||13 The Supreme Revelation|
|10 Contrasting Statements||14 Urged to Destroy14 Urged to Destroy|
|11 Statements and Principles||15 Magnifying the Law|
|12 Does God Destroy – But How||16 Go the Second Mile|
|17a An Eye for an Eye||18 The Mystery of Iniquity|
|17b An Eye for an Eye||
19 The Mystery-Unfolding Cross
|17c An Eye for an Eye||20 The Way of the Cross|
|17d An Eye for an Eye||21 Rods and Serpents|