Many of us have heard the expression, “to go the extra mile.” It conjures up mental images of someone who has gone above and beyond all expectations. Most people are surprised to hear that this expression, like many modern expressions, has Biblical origins. It derives from Christ’s sermon on the mount. In Matthew 5:41, He commends His disciples:
“And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” (ESV)
When Jesus preached these words to His disciples, He gave them a command that in all likelihood they did not want to follow. Many scholars, such as D.A. Carson, have concluded that this command was specifically offensive to the Zealots – a street gang to which one of Jesus’ disciples belonged.[i] Another scholar, David Hill, asserts that they (along with many other Jews) would be averse to Christ’s instructions because He was telling them to not only obey Roman soldiers but to go out of their way to assist them. The Romans had the right to compel individuals to carry a soldier’s luggage, but the legal limit of their commandeering a person was one Roman mile.[ii] Imagine their disdain when Jesus called them to carry the soldiers’ luggage twice the legal limit!
My Spouse’s “Roman Mile”
With that contextual background in mind, you might be wondering, “What does this have to do with my spouse? We get along!” Well, begin with the concept that your spouse has the right – like a Roman soldier had in Roman territories – to call on you to help them carry their baggage. Marital baggage is quite different from Roman luggage, but no less weighty.
For women, your husband may need your help carrying the weight of his work-life. In my personal experience, I have found that most godly men constantly struggle with the stress of wondering whether they are spending too much time at work away from the family or spending more time at work to provide for their families better financially. For men, your wife may need your help carrying the weight of her self-image. Many women, specifically mothers, struggle with losing their sense of self.
As Christian spouses, men are called to love their wives as Christ loves the Church, and women are called to honor their husbands (Ephesians 5:24-25). Being available and supportive of your spouse is the baseline standard and expectation. It would be the proverbial “first Roman mile.”
My Spouse’s “Extra Mile”
Christ called His disciples to go the extra mile, beyond the standard expectation. He commanded them to do this for people that they despised, the Roman soldiers. How much more does Christ expect husbands and wives to go the extra mile for the person they love?
What does the extra mile look like for your spouse? Well, for most spouses it is not very complicated. If your wife asks you to put your dishes in the sink after dinner, rather than simply placing them in the sink – you wash them. If your husband seems to be constantly worn-out when he comes home from work, rather than just asking him the standard questions, “How was your day?” etc., say something he has never heard before – and something every man would love to hear – “You give us a good life.”
Loving Them the Whole Way
When they get married, most people vow something like this: “In sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, for better or for worse, forsaking all others, till’ death do we part.” The call of Jesus is that we not only stick beside our spouse (although that is certainly understood – (Mark 10:9) but that we do everything out of love for them. Suppose Christ called His disciples to show compassion on the Roman soldiers, not for the benefit of the soldiers but for the benefit of the disciples themselves. How can a Christian justify not going the extra mile for the one to whom they have committed their lives?
Take Christ’s advice and go the extra mile with your beloved. Going the extra mile means putting forward the effort to love your spouse in ways that they don’t expect. The longer you’ve been married, the more likely it is that your spouse is accustomed to your only going with them the “Roman mile.”
[i] D.A. Carson, “Matthew” in Frank Gaebeline, ed., Expositor’s Bible Commentary 8 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), 156.
[ii] David Hill, The New Century Bible Commentary: Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972), 128.