“Joy of the Second Mile”

with apologies to D. James Kennedy


By Jeremy Stopford, Semi-Retired Pastor

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.” (Matthew 5:38-42)

Wow! Well over 50 years ago, while living in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, my parents and I visited the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. No, not the big building on Federal Highway which seats almost 10 thousand – per service. Rather, the store-front building on Commercial Boulevard from which Dr. D. James Kennedy was hoping to establish a fundamental Bible believing ministry. God used Dr. Kennedy’s ministry and stick-to-it-iveness for the creation of this ministry directly from the grassroots.

All that to say this: years later he had a televised study on the “Sermon on the Mount”. I was so overcome by his insights to our text that I bought a paper copy and devoured it (spiritually speaking, of course!). Portions of this study today are from his astute observations.

The world has a way of compromising truth! Verse 38 is a prime example, where our Savior introduces the issue by saying, “You have heard that it was said…”. Well, WHO said it? In His day and age, that would be the Pharisees. The Savior wisely was teaching His disciples that there is a BOLD difference between the LETTER of the law and the SPIRIT of the law. The Pharisees were the police officers, as it were, of the LETTER of the law! If anyone crossed that line, they were guilty, violators, and the Pharisees had the authority to issue punishment. Of course, they added to the law! 613 more laws were written by their teachers to aid in the individual Jew being a “good Jew”.

Kind of like becoming a “good Christian” without following Jesus, eh?

In contrast, our Savior shows the SPIRIT or INTENT or even better yet, HIS PURPOSE of the law! He introduces that by saying, “but I tell you…”. In the presence of the Pharisees and the religious leaders of His day was the very AUTHOR of the law! He should know what the purposes were of each written law. He should know their INTENT, their SPIRIT, His PURPOSE!!!

The Pharisees had appointed themselves – the very epitome of the “self-appointed judges” of the law’s LETTER. They failed to realize that the SPIRIT/INTENT/PURPOSE of the law had at least 3 aims:

That injuries didn’t result in unjust revenge (e.g., death for an eye out);

That vengeance would not be taking lightly but seriously, so as to avoid it; and

That any system for just retribution, as described by the law, was to be decided by the JUDGES and not by individuals. The Pharisees had lost sight of that.

Note the Savior’s command in verse 39: “do NOT resist an evil person”. Dr. Kennedy notes that the injured Christian (AND he notes that he hopes he was injured “for the Word’s sake and not for his own sake) has 4 choices of response:

(1) He could return EVIL FOR GOOD. This is the devil’s response, which response has NO compassion.

(2) He could return EVIL FOR EVIL. This reminds me of at least two bumper stickers I’ve seen. “You step on me, I step on you.” And my FAVORITE OF ALL TIME: “You toucha my truck, I smasha your face.” Hmmm….

(3) He could return GOOD FOR GOOD. This is the human response.

(4) He could return GOOD FOR EVIL! This can only be done by the enablement of the Spirit of God!

Put in but 3 words, Jesus’ response is “RESIST NOT EVIL”!

“Resist” means “to set yourself in opposition to”. How is this seen in Scripture?

Acts 7:51: to those same religious authorities, while in the hearing of the Old Testament Scriptures concerning the coming of the Messiah, Stephen said, “You always RESIST THE HOLY SPIRIT as your fathers did, so do you.”

Romans 9:19: to those of Israel who have denied Jesus as the Messiah, Paul writes “You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has RESISTED HIS WILL?”

2 Timothy 3:8: to those in battle with the Scriptures, Paul writes, “Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also RESIST THE TRUTH: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith…”

Hebrews 12:4: to those striving for the faith, the author of Hebrews reminds them that they haven’t died yet, “You have not yet RESISTED UNTO BLOODSHED, striving against sin.”

“Evil” is often discussed in Scripture, and is especially described in the book of Proverbs:

Proverbs 1:33 – the Christian alarm system: “But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and will be secure, WITHOUT FEAR OF EVIL.

Proverbs 15:3 – the Christian awareness: “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch ON THE EVIL and on the good.”

Proverbs 15:15 – the Christian appetite: “All the days of the afflicted are EVIL,

But he who is of a merry heart has a continual feast.”

Proverbs 17:11, 13 – the Christian action: “AN EVIL MAN seeks only rebellion;

Therefore a cruel messenger will be sent against him…Whoever REWARDS EVIL FOR GOOD, EVIL WILL NOT DEPART from his house.”

In verses 39-42, there are several identities of the Word of God in combat. There is “injury to the body” (verse 39).

There is “injury to property” (verse 40). By the way, a “tunic” or “coat” in Jesus’ day was an undergarment. And a “cloak” is “the costly upper robe or mantle.” A poor man might have several underclothes for changing. However, he might have only one upper garment, which would have a double use. It would be for clothing by day and bed clothes by night.

There is “injury to freedom” (verse 41). Contrary to modern day times, any Jew of Jesus’ day knew immediately what the Savior was talking about!

When Cyrus the King of Persia was in power, he would press into service anyone needed to usher his decrees. This was his version of our present day postal system. And the farthest they would go would be…ONE MILE.

When Rome under Caesar took over the nation of Israel, he continued the same policy, but with a few changes. Not only would the Jew carry his “mail” [or “orders”]. He would also have the Jew carry “burdens” (or “packages”). It was an indignity for the Jew to be tapped by a Roman spear and be told, “carry my burden now, Jew.” He then would have to go one mile, only then to return from where he came.

The hearer with Jesus’ insight would fully understand: Jesus was saying, “Go TWO MILES! And when you’ve done THAT, return. And do it as if APPOINTED – “SPEARED” – BY GOD! And finally in verse 42, there was the identity of being “injured to pride.”

It is said in BUSINESS that there are 3 types of employees:

(1). Those that goof off;

(2). Those that do just what is required of them, fulfill duties, get paycheck, and don’t advance far; and

(3). Those that go beyond, are creative, and don’t see their job as a routine but enjoy their job.

It is said in MARRIAGE that there are 3 types of marriages!:

(1). Some don’t even do elemental duties of marriage life (they co-exist!);

(2). Some just do whaat is expected. They see marriage as having no excitement, just routine; and

(3). Some go into marriage doing more than expected or required, resulting in vitality and enthusiasm.

The THIRD points are those who have gone THE SECOND MILE in BUSINESS and in MARRIAGE.

Don’t simply resist the evil. Find the JOY OF THE SECOND MILE.

“You will never know when a Roman soldier puts his spear on your shoulder

to do a task which is contrary to your desires, to your direction…

When you are going to be “injured” for righteousness sake…

THEN you will find out what spiritual stuff you are made of.”

—-Dr. D. James Kennedy