“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’” (Luke 15:1-2)
Here we find Jesus in an assembly composed of 2 different groups. First there were the tax gatherers and other sinners who correspond to the prostitutes, sexually immoral, pornographers, drug dealers, abortionists of our own day, detestable sinners that many Christians shun. But they are people with a great need for love and forgiveness even though they seek to satisfy their need in perversions that never bring lasting comfort. Jesus took the time to associate with such people, to understand them and their needs. Although He never condoned sin, He almost always extended mercy, love, and forgiveness toward these sinners, to lead them to repentance.
But the Pharisees, the second group here, felt that Jesus was condoning sin by associating with sinners, thatsuch They affiliations made Him unclean. The Pharisees were religious fundamentalists, people also with a deep need for love and forgiveness but too proud to admit it. They sought to satisfy their need in outward displays of piety as the means by which one attained righteousness. Some of their rules were grounded in God’s Word and even praiseworthy. However, in most cases, the hearts of the Pharisees  were devoid of love, the heart and essence of God’s law. They obeyed the law to make God accept them or make themselves feel superior. They had little love in their hearts for God, their fellow Jews, and certainly none for unclean sinners and Gentiles.
Their legalism deprived people of the truth of God’s grace. Grace stands in contrast to God’s law. Law condemns. It shows us our sins, where we fall short. But it also shows us our need for God’s mercy, for Jesus and His atoning sacrifice. Law does not eliminate sin. It may curb and limit it, but it cannot make us righteous. Law can influence outward behavior, but only the Spirit of God can change the heart. He makes us righteous. Then He makes us His instruments of grace, to extend His mercy and unconditional love to every individual on earth.