Monday, May 27, 2013

Going the Extra Mile

It’s said a picture is worth a thousand words. In a similar way, a few well-chosen words can speak volumes.

Consider, for instance, this quote from the late inspirational speaker and writer, Zig Ziglar: "There are no traffic jams on the Extra Mile."

Isn’t that true? Going the extra mile, acting beyond the call of duty, doing more than what’s required – these once were virtues people aspired to. Sadly, that’s rarely the case anymore.

Today, people want to know the bare minimum they can get away with. In college, many students don’t care what they’ll learn in a certain course. All they typically want to know is, “Will this be on the exam?” I’ve worked at places where sick leave accrued from pay period to pay period, and you could almost set your calendar by people that would call in “sick” the moment they accumulated a full day of sick leave.

People pay huge sums for new houses, expecting the home of their dreams, only to encounter shoddy construction, along with substandard fixtures and furnishings. Deficiencies in craftsmanship apply to home repairs as well. Never mind the “extra mile” – often workers quit before finishing the first mile!

There's not a lot of foot traffic from people
committed to going the extra mile.
That’s why people willing to go the added mile seem exceptional. As Ziglar pointed out, traffic is light on the extra-mile highway.

If you go out to dinner, for example, tipping a certain percentage is standard even for mediocre service. But when a server is extra attentive, checking back frequently and even anticipating needs before they’re verbalized, you don’t just want to leave a larger tip. You want to recognize the person with a brass band.

When you have work done at your home, if the carpenter or painter or landscaper takes extra pains to ensure the project is completed at the highest level, when it’s time to pay you want to ask, “You’re sure that’s enough?”

Jesus spoke about this in His so-called “Sermon on the Mount” but related it, interestingly enough, to people with whom we have adversarial relationships. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person…. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:38-42).

Jesus calls His followers to do more than what’s required, more than what’s asked for – even for people we feel aren’t deserving of it. Why? There are several good reasons:

When we’re mistreated, our natural response is to respond in kind. To strike back, maybe get revenge. Christ’s followers, however, are to act differently – because He’s made them different. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you?... And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you?... But love your enemies, do good to them…. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:32-36).

As the passage above states, we’re to reflect the mercy we ourselves have received. “He saved us, not because of righteous things we have done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:5). God extended His mercy – not giving is what we did deserve, and offered His grace – giving us what we didn’t deserve.

Another reason might be because in darkness, even the weakest light shines brightly. That’s what Jesus calls us to do: “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). We’re to stand out, to be exceptional, not to blend in. And one way to do this is…by going the extra mile.

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