One of them, a lawyer, spoke up: 'Sir, which is the most important command in the law of Moses?' Jesus replied, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. The second most important is similar: 'Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself'" (Matt. 22:36-39, The Living Bible).
God loves you.
You are made in His image, destined to become His son, a member of the family of God, God as God is God!
But how does that process take place? First, by a recognition of God's reality and His purpose for the creation of human life. Second, through a deep, godly repentance for all the actions and thoughts you have committed which have separated you from the goal God set for you. After these conditions are met, you receive His Spirit and begin to live and think like God Himself instead of that wretched person you used to be.
Yet it is not God's intention that you should remain forever in a state of remorse and guilt over the things that separated you from Him. Yes, we "die daily." Yes, it is a long, hard struggle, a lifetime job, this repentance and overcoming. But let's face it, it is God's purpose in your life for you to become one with Him, as He is, a member of His family.
As with any father, He is loving and merciful toward you. He likes you. He sees potential in you beyond your imagination. He's "proud" of you. The only thing He dislikes about you are those things that thwart His purpose in your life: He labels those things "sin" — and He hates the sin, but He loves you!
Now, if God loves you — how can you hate yourself? You are familiar, I am sure, with the scripture which tells us that if we say we love God and we still hate our neighbor we are liars and the love of God is not really in us (I John 4:20). But, if your neighbor is a dirty, stinking, rotten, obnoxious, sinning, hateful, rebel against God and His way — how can you possibly love him (or her)? Answer: the same way God loves that individual. Remember, He came to save the sinner, not the (self) righteous.
Now, if you can have godly compassion on other sinners, if you can, with love, cover a multitude of sins (as Christ has done for you), if you can "love your neighbor" — why can't you love yourself? If it is true that you can't love God truly unless you also love your fellowman, then it is just as factual that you cannot truly "love your neighbor" (your fellowman) until you have come to love yourself! Does not the law say: "Love your — neighbor as much as you love yourself"?
If you still hate yourself — perhaps because you are still an unrepentant sinner — then you cannot "love your neighbor." Think about it! How many giant guilt complexes have been passed on in the name of God and religion? How many conscience — torn people have gone to their graves totally I am not saying, "Love yourself, sin and all" — but just what Jesus said: "Love yourself." There's a gigantic difference! But how does true love begin — whether of God, your neighbor or yourself? With respect!
We are commanded to love God and neighbor and self! Yet love is the most difficult thing to legislate. Love cannot come by the "letter of the law," because that only brings death. True love must come from the wellspring of the innermost you — and it must come by the gift of God's Spirit, or it will not be genuine. It is something you were not born with, but must acquire. It is a gift from God!
Repeated more than once in God's Word is the statement: "Wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord." That is an unfortunate translation, because God's Word also tells us that "perfect love casts out fear." It would be better put: "Wisdom begins with the deep respect and awe of the Lord." We learn to respect and be awed by God because of His creation, His love, mercy, forgiveness, and His infinite purpose in our own lives: None of those attributes is to be feared! It is impossible to truly love any being, divine or human, without respect.
It's easy to respect, stand in awe of and love God — He's perfect. Human beings, with all their frailties and sins, their evil thoughts and doings, are more difficult to love and respect. Yet God loves human beings, respects and has an awe for the perfect design of His own creation, because He sees beyond the now, the sin, the degradation, the Satan-driven world of today — beyond to the perfect creation of a loving son yet in the future to be in His Kingdom. And He requires of us all the same compassion, love, respect, awe — sometimes before we achieve that perfection.
Why can't you respect, love and stand in awe of yourself? David, the man after God's own heart, said: "We are fearfully [perhaps better translated "awesomely"] and wonderfully made"! Each of us has the awesome and wonderful potential of becoming a member in the very family of God! I love that, stand in awe of it, think it's wonderful! How can you not love a being like that?
We all too often condemn in others those things we hate in ourselves — and all too often that condemnation leads to hate of self and others. To hate the sin is required, but to hate the individual is unacceptable to God — whether it is another or yourself. Repent of sin: That's good. Then, once forgiven, marvel at, stand in awe of and love the new you God has made possible.
God loves you! Why not love yourself?