What Jesus is saying is that in order to love everybody you must first love God with everything you have and then you are able to love everybody else but you must love yourself first. We often think that Jesus wants us to love others more than ourselves but that's not what scripture says. What it says is that we shouldn't think more highly of ourselves than we ought.
Romans 12:3 ESV For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
But it doesn't say love others more than you love yourself. It says love others as you love yourself.
Many people suffer the pain of self-hatred and live each day with a feeling of intense worthlessness. This lack of a proper love for self makes true love for others impossible.
The measure of our love for ourselves is the measure of love we are to express toward our neighbor. If we have a low view of ourselves, we will have a low and critical view of others. “When a man does not love himself, he cannot love his fellow man: and when he does not understand God’s love, he does not know how to love himself” (R. Lofton Hudson -The Religion of a Mature Person).
How can we develop a proper love for ourselves?
To properly love others, we need to recognize and respond to the good news that God loves us as sinners even though he knows all about us
John 3:16 ESV "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Romans 5:6-8 ESV For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Nothing is hidden from the all-knowing God. No secrets can be hidden from him. The good news of the gospel is that God loves us and extends his grace and mercy toward us even though we are sinners.
The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that through him God forgives us of all our sins and redeems us from the waste of sin.
Acts 10:43 ESV To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."
1 John 3:1-3 ESV See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
Matthew 6:26-29 ESV Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
The God who loves the birds of the air and the plants of the field loves us and will help us to be what he meant us to be if we will but trust him day by day and do the best we can. He also said that we should accept ourselves because the agony of anxiety will not help us add one inch to our stature or one hour to the length of our life.
Luke 12:25-26 ESV And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?
By God’s grace let us accept and love ourselves as we are.
The person who is wrapped up in self makes a mighty small package. If we would truly appreciate and respect ourselves, let us give ourselves to the service of our God and to
God loves you. He really loves you. He has proven that love in the gift of his Son, Jesus Christ. He continues to manifest that love through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. You can demonstrate your love for yourself by making Jesus Christ the Lord of love, the Lord and leader of your life.
How do you love yourself? Well, for starters, you may be always thinking about yourself. You think about what you’re going to eat for breakfast, what you need to do at work, what you need to pick up from the store on the way home. You also love yourself by making your needs top-priority. How you schedule your day revolves around the things you want or need to accomplish. Basically, your thoughts and your day are centered on you.
So when Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, that’s a tall order. He’s saying we need to think about others as much as we think about ourselves. He means we should remember the needs of others like we remember our own. He means seeking the happiness, goodness, peace, security of others as much as we seek those things in our own lives.
How can we do this- especially to those who annoy us, hurt us, or perhaps even persecute us? When you think about loving your neighbors sacrificially, as a priority number one, it seems impossible. You may not be able to say that you do this fully for the people you love most. But then you remember the first part of Jesus’ command- ‘Love God with all your heart, soul and mind.” There’s your answer. When you focus all your love toward God, he takes your selfish heart and transforms it into a heart capable of loving others. You no longer need others to validate you, be kind or loving toward you in order to love them back. Christ’s love is enough. He fills you up so you can pour out selfless love to others, even the unlovable ones.
This selfless love isn’t something most people are good at but the first step is loving God above everything else.