I once visited an impoverished neighborhood of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Homes were made of corrugated iron, with electrical wires dangling live above them. There I had the privilege of interviewing families and hearing how churches were helping to combat unemployment, drug use, and crime.
In one alleyway I climbed a rickety ladder to a small room to interview a mother and her son. But just a moment later someone rushed up, saying, “We must leave now.” A machete-wielding gang leader was apparently gathering a mob to ambush us.
We visited a second neighborhood, but there we had no problem. Later I discovered why. As I visited each home, a gang leader stood outside guarding us. It turned out his daughter was being fed and educated by the church, and because believers were standing by her, he stood by us.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus presents a standard of love that’s beyond comparison. This kind of love embraces not just the “worthy” but the undeserving (Matthew 5:43–45), reaching beyond family and friends to touch those who can’t or won’t love us back (vv. 46–47). This is God-sized love (v. 48)—the kind that blesses everyone.
As believers in Santo Domingo live out this love, neighborhoods are starting to change. Tough hearts are warming to their cause. That’s what happens when God-sized love comes to town.
One of Israel’s earliest national laws commanded them to treat their enemies with benevolence and respect (Exodus 23:4–5). In Matthew 5:43–48, Jesus clarified why this was commanded. In loving our enemies, we’re emulating the generosity and kindness that God our Father has shown to all men, including the wicked (v. 45). Paul similarly called us not to “repay anyone evil for evil” (Romans 12:17). Instead, we’re to “overcome evil with good” (v. 21). We can do this because we can trust God to administer justice (v. 19).