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The Third Way, Part 2.5

June 29, 2010

Sorry about the lapse in conversation. I was at Kids’ Camp last week and didn’t get enough posts scheduled before I left.

In the meantime, though, I’ve been catching up on a couple Word of Life Church podcasts. Pastor Zahnd is going through the Sermon on the Mount and it goes without saying that he’s much smarter than I.

On the 13th (you can listen to it here, and I highly recommend it), he was in Matthew 5:38-42 and it was brilliant as always.

Among other things, he explained the bit about going two miles.

The Romans had their soldiers and their roads. They, apparently, invented mile markers. The soldiers had packs that weighed roughly 60 pounds, that they took with them everywhere and it was law that if a soldier asked a non-citizen to carry his pack for him that person HAD to comply for one mile.

The lesson is similar, but a right light is interesting.

I can’t imagine how annoying, how humiliating, that would have been. People were out doing business or taking care of their families or whatever, and some Roman soldier snarls at the Jew to stop what he’s doing and carry his 60-pound bag for a mile.

So the real lesson with that particular verse is not so much, “Say yes when you have the right to say no,” although I think that sentiment still rings through Jesus’ teaching. The real lesson is to go further than the law requires – and for your enemy at that.

Pastor Zahnd even muses in his message about what that might have done to the Roman soldiers as Jesus’ disciples actually started to heed that instruction. The soldiers fully expect that the peon they just took advantage of will drop the bag and mutter some rude comment as he walks away to rejoin his family or continue his business. But what happened when the Jew said, “I got this. Let’s keep going.”? How many Roman soldiers refused the offer? How many felt bad about making them carry it for the first mile?

We talked about this a little when we met Fred in the parking lot, but this teaching – this idea I keep calling the Third Way – isn’t about being weak, although the world will see it as such. It’s about a subtle revolution born in love, strengthened among the grass roots and carried by the undercurrent.

The kingdom of God is not like an army. It’s like a seed.

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