The Worship of Going the Extra Mile

The Worship of Going the Extra Mile

Our contemporary concept of worship tends to fit in a small box within the boundaries of the Sunday morning music set, or perhaps the entire service, or occasionally including some private time with the Lord during the week. But the biblical concept of worship is much broader, and is based on the likes of Paul’s command to “present your body as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable act of worship” (Rom. 12:1).

Some of the more modern translations render the word worship as service, and that is an appropriate nuance to what the Greek word connotes. There is a strong link between biblical worship and biblical service, for honoring God is meant to go much deeper than mere lip-service or ritual, and is to be reflected in our daily walk. Paul also tells us, “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do all to the glory of God,” and “whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God” (Col. 3:17, 1 Cor. 10:31). Paul is showing us that the very routine and mundane acts of our lives can be transformed into worship by our heart intentions as we do them.

There are many idioms and expressions we commonly use in the English language that most people rarely realize come from the Bible. Take for instance: “How the mighty have fallen” (2 Sam. 1:25, 27); “No rest for the wicked” (Is. 57:21); “The powers that be” (Rom. 13:1); “At their wit’s end” (Ps. 107:23-27); “The blind leading the blind” (Matt. 15:14); and “Go the extra mile” (Matt. 5:41). There are scores more of these common expressions, but we are going to zero in on how this last one relates to worship.

When Jesus spoke about going the extra mile, He was giving the portion of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) where this section of the sermon is punctuated with repeated phrases like, “You have heard it said…but I say…” as He was contrasting what was taken as the normal attitude of the day with what kind of attitude reflected the truly righteous person, the one who honored God with his or her life. Since their nation was under Roman rule, a Roman soldier was legally able to compel them to carry the soldier’s load a mile. Jesus was saying that they should not only not complain about that burden, but graciously offer to carry it another mile. Can you imagine the shock to the soldier when someone not only didn’t grudgingly comply, but graciously offered to double the obligation? Now, think about the heart of the one offering to do so; what kind of work would have to go on in that heart to bring them to the point of such grace, such love? It would be the result not only of the work of God on the heart, but the expression of that amazing work through the joyful worship expressed in service—not just to the soldier, but more specifically to the Lord.

How about in our own hearts? What would be our initial reaction to such a demand placed on us? When faced with an onerous task, do we complain? Do we chafe? Do we balk? Do we rebel? Or do we greet the task—whether mundane or arduous or thankless—with the grateful response of one who realizes this is an opportunity to worship the Lord through service to Him? Him! It is the “Him” that is the key to changing what we might ordinarily treat as odious, performing it grudgingly or thoughtlessly for someone else, and change it instead into a worship encounter with our Lord. When faced with such a duty, we can intentionally transform our attitude, beyond that of acceptance to one of eagerness by entering into it holding on to the truth that Jesus has said that the one who serves is the greatest in the kingdom (Matt. 23:11); by realizing that He Himself said that He had come to serve and not be served (Matt. 20:28), so if we are serving with His attitude we are the closest to reflecting Him; and by noting that in the humility of service we are drawing near to God, because He has promised to be near to the humble.

When we are presented with an opportunity to serve, we can turn it to worship by “presenting our bodies” to Him and, with our hearts, committing the act intentionally as serving Him, not just the person we are helping. This is particularly true when we add to the willing attitude the act of going that extra mile. Besides completing the act of service, what next step above and beyond can we see to do? What additional blessing can we give? What other need might we notice to which we can attend? There is a certain joy that arises when we dedicate such service to Him, to glorify His name through our lives, and to let His love flow through us. It turns service into communion with Him in love and worship.

It doesn’t have to be a major act to invite worship. Returning your cart to the corral? Why not offer to take someone else’s, in the process greeting them as someone created in the image of God and designed for His love? Bringing in the newspaper in the morning? Why not take this moment of routine and turn it into a service of loving worship by taking a neighbor’s paper up to their doorstep? God sees every intention of the heart, and if it is our intention to present our bodies to Him daily as an act of worship, and look for ways to go the extra mile to show Him our devotion, He will be pleased to accept our worship, whether small or large. It all gets down to the intentions of our hearts towards the Lord, and going that extra mile for Him.