Pr. Jaynan Clark

February 13, 2014

photo of Pr. JaynanWhen did doing the “right thing” at any given spontaneous moment become so unusual as to be considered going “the extra mile?” I always thought that doing something pretty awesome and unusual or even heroic was more a kin to the “mile” designation but lately I’m rethinking that.

It may be a rather sad commentary on our current state of affairs as a country that doing what I was raised to believe are just daily acts of common courtesy, now seem to be not only the exception but notably shocking. How did we get here as a culture and so rapidly? In my opinion, when the “self” becomes the primary focus at the expense of the “other” (Biblically speaking your “neighbor”) and the community . . .then the mile shrinks to a centimeter. Going any distance outside of your own sinful self appears odd and even heroic. The norming norm is to take care of number one who is mistakenly identified as you.

For example, my daughter Anandae has been using the mass transport to get back and forth for some physical therapy appointments. Two stories in the last week influenced my choice of subject matter for this article. First one: She climbed on the bus and sat down in an available seat. Next stop, next person on was an elderly, rather frail gentleman. Anandae paused believing that one of the many men seated around her would offer and when there was no audible action she offered her seat to the old man. He protested that such a pretty young lady should not be giving up her seat for him. She smiled and seated him in her chair. The extra mile or just plain common courtesy? Second one: She is seated in her seat. Next stop many people enter, one is handicapped. A young man who is standing for lack of a seat steps out of the way to make room for the handicapped passenger and accidentally bumps into a rather large young woman. He turns immediately and apologizes. She proceeds to read him the riot act complete with expletives that would make even the local bartender blush. The bus falls silent in mass embarrassment. Anandae reached out and poked the young man in the arm and said, “On behalf of all the women on this bus I would like to apologize for her behavior which is inexcusable even if she is on her cycle.” The entire bus was “touched.” The young man was blessed. Anandae did what just had to be done. Extra mile or common duty, at least for a disciple?

As she shared these experiences with me, I turned and told her what had just happened to me in Costco. I went for the last day of coupon shopping and loaded up my cart. The store was closing. I was already placing my items on the conveyor belt when I notice the man behind me with 3 cases of Diet Coke and a bag of chips. I turned and asked him if he would like to move his cart up and slip in line in front of me as his check out would be simple and fast. He looked as though the heavens had opened and angels were descending. He was shocked and almost speechless. I added, “This is no big deal unless you are one of those who are going to bring out a weird check and they will have to call in a manager and I’ll be left standing here wondering why I opened my big mouth.” He laughed and thanked me and checked out. Then he thanked me again. As I prepared to pay my bill the cashier said, “Thank you so much for what you did. Nobody does that kind of thing anymore. It would be so helpful all the way around if they did.” The extra mile? I didn’t think so. . .but apparently by today’s standards it is.

So in this season of Epiphany, the season of light and revelation of who Jesus is and what He has done for You remember that “letting your light so shine before others so that they might see your good works and give glory to Your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16) has become even easier in today’s America. A quick flick of the match seems to light up the room in these dark days of selfishness—perhaps making these the best of times to witness to the One true light who is the light of the world that the darkness cannot overcome. The One who went more than an extra mile to the top of a hill named Calvary, to a cross He didn’t deserve, to save you from yourself for Himself did so in order that you can serve the other in common, daily acts of Christian service giving the glory to the One and Only (meaning Him not you).