In their relationship with Jesus people are known by how they treat the most vulnerable among us, including criminals. That was what Jesus taught about judgment in Matthew 25. We are judged by how we treat the poor and the incarcerated. Despite these powerful words, many who claim Jesus openly hold the poor in contempt and view the criminal as subhuman. If that divine judgment lies ahead, an eye opening day of reckoning awaits those of us who claim moral superiority as an excuse for abusing the weak and lowly.
Jesus is not honored by how well we love and treat our family, our friends, or our fellow church members. Our neighbors, those we are to treat as we would be treated, are those outside our normal circle, those not of our kind, citizens of other cultures for example.
No one can seriously claim Jesus and deny what he taught because it is uncomfortable and requires personal sacrifice. Jesus taught personal sacrifice. He exemplified personal sacrifice. He was the personal sacrifice. The unmitigated pursuit of self interest. politically, economically, culturally, or whatever is totally at odds with Jesus. No show of piety, no biblical interpretation, no equivocation of any sort can evade the force of Jesus' own words on the subject.
We all fall short of the personal sacrifice Jesus enjoined. Denying self is admittedly very difficult. However, our failing in that regard is only amplified if we parade the failing as if it is something to be proud of.