Love for neighbor and for self

The command, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” appears 8 times in the Scripture (Lev 19:18, Mt 19:19; 22:39, Mk 12:31, Lk 10:27, Rom 13:9, Gal 5:14, Ja 2:8). Additionally, The Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” appears in two places (Mt 7:12, Luke 6:31). We drill the first half of these commands into our children, but neglect what I contend is the most important latter half.
 
The structure of the commands teaches us that in order to love our neighbor we must first love ourselves. In order to properly respect others, we must first have a healthy self-respect. Way too often well-meaning people do a great disservice to their neighbors by not taking care of themselves or establishing healthy boundaries.
 
Christians mistakenly believe that the flagellation and hatred of self are the same as denial of self. They think that to be like Christ they must degrade their personhood. Some consider their self-loathing a badge of righteousness. They practice negative self-talk which leads to a low self-esteem. Low self-esteem gives way to failure in loving and doing for others which only serves to reinforce the negative feedback loop.
 
We see in Romans 6:18-25 that Paul denied anything good in himself, but he stopped short of self-condemnation.  He wrote, “I know that nothing good dwells in me,” then clarified, “that is in my flesh.” To Paul, the heart and the flesh were two separate things. His heart, which he referred to as his “inner being,” delighted in “the law of God,” but he also recognized “another law waging war in [his] mind making [him] captive to the law of sin in [his] members.” He exclaimed in verse 24, “Wretched man that I am! Who will save me from this body of death?” But then he went on, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” 
 
We do no service to Christ or our loved ones by condemning ourselves of sins for which Jesus already died. While our flesh often fails us and holds us captive, our heart is set free to love our inner being and to love others because of what Christ did for us on the cross. Our faith in Christ has freed us from the law of sin and death. We can love who we are in Him, thus we can also love others as He loves us.
 
Furthermore, we must first do good to ourselves if we hope to also do good for others. Or should we forget that Jesus took care of Himself first? He nourished His body with food and drink. He nourished His spirit by feasting on the word of God, and He took time to rest. Jesus’ care for His physical health allowed Him to go the extra mile. His care for His spirit allowed Him to turn the other cheek. He conducted His ministry out of the overflow of His own physical and spiritual health. Where do we get off thinking that we could do otherwise?
 
A person who kills themselves doing for others is no martyr. Neglect of self leads to premature death and falls short of bringing honor to the Lord. If God cares for you so much that He sent His son to die for you, then shouldn’t you also care for yourself? He created you. He gave you life. He loved you even before you were formed in your mother’s womb. Who are you to neglect God’s beloved? 
 
If you never go the extra mile for yourself, then you will never be able to go the extra mile for someone else. You cannot give away what you have not received, and you cannot receive nourishment unless you ask for it from the Lord who provides. If you desire to be a help to others, then you must first treat yourself like a person who needs your help. 
 
If we love God, then we will also love those whom God created. We must assign the highest value to all who were made in His image. This means that we must also love and value our own life. The Bible teaches that we should not value our lives for the sake of ourselves (Acts 20:24) but for the sake of others. We have to love and take care of ourselves if we hope to finish the course of our ministry and testify of the gospel of Jesus Christ.