Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 24, 1961
NUMBER 16, PAGE 4-5b

Above And Beyond The Call Of Duty


There is much about the cross of Christ which must forever remain a mystery to the human mind. We can only dimly grasp, if, indeed, we grasp at all, the compelling necessity behind it, the compulsion of Divinity, the absolute and imperative requirement that the Son of God shed his blood in behalf of others. Men have speculated for centuries, and probably will speculate to the end of time, as to why this was so. Was the necessity founded in God's justice? or in God's love for us? or due to a conflict between justice and mercy which could be solved only by the death of an innocent being?

We do not know; we cannot know. But there is one certain thing about the cross that is pretty easily understood; there is one element in that cruel experience which is quickly comprehended by the whole human race, whether educated or illiterate, cultured or savage. It is of this element that Jesus spoke when he said, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." (Matt. 16:24) It is of this we are thinking when we sing, "Must Jesus bear the cross alone, And all the world go free? No; there's a cross for everyone; And there's a cross for me."

What then is that "cross' which Jesus bore, and which is to be shared by all who would follow him? What is the "cross" a man is to take up? What is the area of living in which we share the cross of Christ? In what realm are we moving, and in what terms are we thinking when we speak of having something "common" as between us and Christ in bearing the cross?

Two Realms Of Life

Every man's life is divided into two areas: (1) the compulsory, imperative, obligatory "musts" of life, and (2) that area which is "above and beyond the call of duty."

The imperative obligations are those which are forced upon us by different things — public opinion, self-respect, love of family, duty, etc. A man feels an obligation to support his children, to provide for them shelter, food, clothing and the necessities of life. Public opinion, his own self-respect, and his love for his children would all combine to lay this obligation upon him.

But who even after all these centuries can read the heart-breaking cry of David when he learned of the death of his rebellious son, "0 my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would God I had died for thee, 0 Absalom, my son, my son!" without realizing instantly that here is a love that goes "above and beyond the call of duty." All men would have expected David to love his son; all would have looked with disfavor upon him if he had been unwilling to have forgiven a penitent Absalom. But who would have expected or required of him that he be willing, even anxious, to have died himself that his rebellious son might have lived? "The Second Mile"

The cross of Christ, like the heart-rending cry of David, was in this second area of life, this "above and beyond the call of duty" realm — this "second mile" attitude. For Christ was NOT obligated to die for us. He could have retained God's love, and his own self-respect had he refused to die. For those for whom he died were utterly unworthy — to the very last man. "But God commendeth his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:8) Jesus said himself, "No man takes my life from me; but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again." (John 10:18) In giving his life for those who were putting him to death, he was clearly "going the second mile," doing more than reason or justice could ever have asked of him.

Influence For Righteousness

It is in this area — the second mile, above and beyond the call of duty — that all true influence for righteousness must be found. Nearly any man will feed a hungry friend; but the Christian is to feed an enemy who hungers. Most men can find it easy to love those who love them; but the Christian loves those who hate him and who despitefully use him. It is in this kind of life, this self-forgetting attitude, that we truly "take up our cross" and follow Christ.

We share with him the glory of going the second mile; we come to feel the tremendous moral impact which lies in this vast realm, where so few of the human race ever dare to venture.

Whether in our family relationships, or in the church, or the community, it is always true that our greatest influence, our noblest living, and our deepest satisfaction must come from those deeds which we perform which are "above and beyond the call of duty." It was this added bit, the additional sacrifice, which Paul commended in the Macedonians who "according to their power, yea and beyond their power, gave of their own accord." Here was their strength, their influence for good. And here lies our strength — doing more than anyone could ask or expect of us.