"For while we were yet weak, in due season Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: for peradventure for the good man some one would even dare to die. But God commendeth his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (ASV)
I'm always amazed at the number of Christians who simply don't "get it." We've all seen them -- the holier-than-thou types who like to look down on everyone else. They seem to believe that they're "good enough" for heaven, but the rest of the world is beneath them. Fortunately for us, God doesn't see it that way.
Christ did not sacrifice Himself for those who are good enough, rather it was quite the opposite. If there were any people good enough for God's kingdom, there would have been no need for Him to die. If it were possible for us to get to Heaven by being good enough, we could have taken care of that on our own. To believe oneself to be above the rest is to deny the need for His intervention on our behalf.
The truth is, Christ died for sinners. He died for murderers, drug dealers, perverts, thieves, liars, prostitutes and criminals. And what's more, He loves them just as much as He loves the rest of us. Who are we then, as Christians, to condemn such people? I'm not proposing that we do away with jails or make the courts more lenient. That type of earthly justice certainly has it's place, and it's for the government to decide. Rather, we as Christians should learn to see them as Christ sees them.
When Jesus hung on the cross, He was not alone. He was hung between two thieves. One of them mocked Him and told Him to get down from the cross if He was in fact the Christ. The other though, may have understood what the chief priests failed to see. "But the other answered, and rebuking him said, Dost thou not even fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said, Jesus, remember me when thou comest in thy kingdom. And he said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise." (Luke 23:40-43 ASV) Jesus showed love to this man, who had been condemned to die for his crimes.
If Jesus loves even criminals, shouldn't we as well? If we are truly His followers, shouldn't we have compassion for those the world condemns? Don't they need to see the light of God's love just as much as the rest of us?