Christians are called to live the "imbalance of love" modeled by the cross rather than be overly prudent in relationships, Pope Francis said.

While "we prefer to love only those who love us in order to avoid disappointments," God's love "goes beyond the usual criteria by which we humans live out our relationships," the pope said before praying the Angelus in St. Peter's Square Feb. 19.

While it is natural for people to treat well only those who are good to them, he said, God's love is "extraordinary" and "always disproportionate."

Looking at the day's Gospel reading from St. Matthew in which Jesus "invites us to turn the other cheek and to love even our enemies," the pope said Jesus gave the most extreme example of what that means.

God's love is manifested in the "imbalance of the cross," since Jesus accepted to die for humanity despite its sinfulness. "Jesus is not a good bookkeeper," the pope said, "he always leads us to the imbalance of love."

"God loves us while we are sinners, not because we are good or able to give something back to him," he added.

Pope Francis then invited the approximately 20,000 visitors gathered in St. Peter's Square to "step out of the logic of self-interest" and love freely without expecting anything in return.

"If we remain in the ordinary, in the balance between giving and receiving, things do not change," said the pope. But daring to do good and risking love "slowly transforms conflicts, shortens distances, overcomes enmities and heals the wounds of hatred."

After praying the Angelus, Pope Francis asked people to show their love also for the victims of war and disaster as he expressed his closeness to earthquake victims in Syria and Turkey, to people affected by a cyclone in New Zealand and the "dear Ukrainian people" suffering the tragedy of war.