Friday, November 18, 2005

THE EXTRA MILE by Keith Giles

Jesus talked about going the extra mile. He suggested that, if asked to walk with someone for one mile, that we go two miles without being asked.

This is not about a formula we’re to follow, however. We’re not supposed to make the words of Jesus into another set of laws, but instead, we’re to filter everything through the attitude of love.

So, if the most loving thing to do is to walk that extra mile with someone, then we should do it, not because we’re “supposed to” but because we’re compelled to love others the way Jesus loves them.

Recently I was visiting a church where the pastor’s sermon was about going the extra mile. His attempt was to get us to go above and beyond the everyday, ordinary sort of Christianity in favor of a faith that is more than the mundane.

He was suggesting that we do things like pray for our lost friends, or love our next door neighbors who weren’t yet believers, or read the Word of God every day, taking time to be alone with God in prayer and meditation. That’s when I realized something. This sort of “Extra Mile” Christianity that the pastor was talking about was actually what Jesus had in mind in the first place.

In other words, what we’ve come to think of as the “extra mile” is really the bare minimum that a follower of Jesus should be about anyway.

So, it made me wonder, if Christians aren’t doing all these “extra” things as they go about their everyday life, then just what ARE we doing?

Do we need someone to tell us that we need to love our neighbor, or spend time with God, or pray for our friends? If so, then I think we’ve really got a very low bar when it comes to our faith.

Maybe it’s the fruit of an easy grace, where all we’re required to do is to raise our hand if we don’t want to go to hell and repeat a prayer and maybe sign a card, in order to be considered a “Christian”?

I think we’ve lost the concept of surrendering our life to Christ.

When you think about your own faith walk, what comes to your mind when you think about going the extra mile?

Is it something like praying for an hour each day? Or maybe reading your Bible every night before you go to bed? Maybe it’s closer to helping people around you who are in need, even if it costs you something? Or perhaps you’d equate sharing your faith with total strangers with the extra mile?

Whatever comes to your mind when you think of going that extra mile, I’ll bet that it’s really only what Jesus would’ve expected you to do simply because you’ve surrendered your life to Him.

But what good do these insights do us?

Seriously, what’s the point? Is it so we can feel badly about how little we actually do for Jesus each day? Is it to make some of us feel superior because, in our estimation, we actually do embody this high standard of Christian behavior?

No. The point is that all of us have fallen short of the Glory of God.

All of us.

What is it that prevents us from living that ‘extra mile’ brand of life that Jesus models for us in the scriptures? I think it’s pure and simple; obedience.

There are moments when we respond to God’s Spirit in obedience, taking the opportunity to be Jesus in someone’s life, whether we feel like it or not, and then there are moments when we fail to listen to God’s voice and we do our own thing.

When we obey God, we create the possibility. Maybe that’s why Jesus taught us to pray, ‘Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven’, so that we might cooperate with what God is doing in the moment. When we allow God’s will to be done, and it’s only done when we are obedient to Him, then His Kingdom can break into the here and now and we can experience life ‘as it is in Heaven’.

Jesus said, ‘Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only He who does the will of my Father in Heaven’…and ‘If you love me, keep my commandments’.

Jesus didn’t ever expect that those who would become his disciples would ever do anything less than exactly everything that he taught, commanded, and modeled for them to do. Obedience isn’t an option for those who have surrendered their lives in favor of the Jesus kind of life. Obedience IS the Jesus kind of life.

Of course, when I talk this way people say that I’m being legalistic.

What about Grace, they ask me.

Yes, Grace is awesome. We’re definitely saved by Grace and not by our works, as Paul says in Ephesians.

But, in that very same verse, in the same breath if you will, Paul says that we’re “…saved by Grace to do good works, prepared in advance for us to do.”

So, Grace is for salvation, and it’s for us to have strength to do those good works too, and obedience to Jesus is what the faith walk is all about.

Believing in Jesus is more than having a strong opinion that he exists. It means “putting your whole trust in” Jesus. That’s what Jesus meant when he said, “For whosoever believes in (me) will not perish but have Eternal life” –John 3:16.

The word ‘Believe’ is translated as the Greek for “the kind of knowledge that conceives”, or a relationship that allows an intimate knowledge and complete trust in someone…sort of like the ultimate intimacy that permeates the physical, emotional, and spiritual reality.

Belief, then, becomes about much more than ‘hope’ or ‘agreement’ when we understand this. Belief is actually about complete trust…and surrender…and obedience.

We can’t afford to perpetuate the concept that being a Christian involves having God as our ‘Co-Pilot’.

He’s either the pilot, or you’re flying solo.

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