This is why the Pharisees were so uncomfortable with the fact that Jesus associated closely with sinners. It threatened their concept of God. If Jesus was indeed the Son of God, His true representative, then His acceptance of sinners would mean that their self-righteous show was of no value to Jehovah. It would mean that whatever the purpose of righteous behavior may be it certainly was not to their credit for salvation. They would need to find another motive for being good--perhaps love--which would be far too self-crucifying. So instead they crucified Him.
If anyone has ever understood God's love it was the apostle Paul. To him divine love was not merely a beautiful theory to be admired from a distance like a breathtaking work of art. Jesus did not die on the cross to stimulate our intellects or impress us with His valor. He died to demonstrate God's love so that we might be transformed into his image. In Paul's mind the love that Christ manifested toward us while we were yet in our sins is to find reflection in the way we relate to our fellow sinner. Notice how he weds these two factors together:
"For the love of Christ constrains us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live no longer for themselves but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus not longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all thing are of God, who has reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation". 2 Corinthians 5:14-19.
In verses 14 and 15 Paul says we are compelled by the love of Christ because we realize that He died for us. Then in verse 16 he points out that the Savior's amazing love alters the way we relate to other people: "Therefore, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh" or as the Revised Standard Version says "We regard no one from a human point of view." In other words, the love of Christ changes the way we see others.
Taking this thought to yet a more practical level, Paul continues by reminding us that the reconciliation of the world was accomplished by a specific attitude on God's part: God reconciled sinners by "not counting men's sins against them" NIV. And it is by this very same means that we are to carry forth "the ministry of reconciliation."
(I hope I can carry this ministry of reconciliation in and through my life. I don't want to be condemning, do you? I want to help people see Jesus as He really, truly is. Grandma Joan.)