In Matthew 5:41, Jesus was referring to an interesting privilege available to Roman soldiers when he told his disciples, ‘If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.’
It’s where we get the idiom used today, about ‘going the extra mile.’
It is based on a Roman law, that allowed a Roman soldier to compel any idle, able-bodied man or a man walking in the same direction, provided he was not a Roman citizen, to carry the soldier’s armour for one thousand paces or approximately a mile.
Jesus taught if a soldier required this of you, instead of resenting and fighting it, a person should forgive and offer to carry the soldier’s armour two miles.
In the verse prior to this, Jesus also taught if a man steals your shirt, then give your cloak as well.
And CBN reports that this is the attitude that Craig Deall and his family took in 2003, when the Zimbabwe government seized their farm, without compensation.
It was part of the government’s land reform policy to seize farms operated by European farmers and turn them over to black subsistence farmers.
Deall and his family had been operating the farm since 1948, now had to deal with the emotions surrounding this seizure, as several Zimbabwe families moved on to their former property.
How should they respond?
Deall recalls that those verses in Matthew 5 kept coming to his mind, as he was now faced with a decision.
He told CBN, “We could fight, we could flee, or we could forgive.”
Though a few of his friends chose to fight the land seizure, and some ended up getting killed, most decided to leave the country.
But Deall felt God was telling him to forgive and stay. When they made that decision, his family experienced a release, indicating they were doing what God wanted (Philippians 4:7).
The family moved to Zimbabwe’s capital city, Harare, and Deall began working with Foundations for Farming, that had been set up by a Christian man, Brian Oldreive, to help train African people how to farm.
Oldreive believed that God had showed him nature’s way of farming after he asked God to show him how to farm (James 1:5).
Typically, modern farming involves regularly plowing the land, turning over the soil, preparing it for seeding, but Oldreive noticed that there was no tilling or plowing in nature, as mulch covered the forest floor. This not only provided nutrients, but also protected the soil, including reduced water evaporation.
So, Oldreive incorporated this method of zero tilling in his own farm, where instead of plowing, he created a small v-slot in which to deposit the seeds, that is then covered over with soil.
This resulted in an almost immediate and dramatic increase in crop production.
After receiving this revelation from God, Oldreive believed the Lord was calling him to teach farmers across Africa about this innovative method, resulting in the formation of Foundations for Farming.
Prior to instituting the land seizure program in 2000, Zimbabwe had been exporting food, but between 2000 and 2016, it was forced to import grain as wheat production fell annually from 250,000 tons to 60,000 tons.
The Zimbabwe government saw what was happening with zero tillage and actually endorsed the concept, and by 2020, due to dramatic increases in crop production, the nation was exporting food for the first time in 20 years.
As part of their ministry, members of the group share the Gospel as they teach this method of farming across Africa, and going the second mile, Deall even shared the gospel and zero-tillage with the new owners of his former farm.
Deal told CBN, “We have a saying in Foundations of Farming: ‘I used to own a farm in Africa, not Africa is my farm.”