God is love - this has been made a travesty of what it truly means, as one of the glorious attributes of the most holy, uncreated, infinite Creator of all there is.
When this is said in our current religious community – which often goes by the name of the Lord, but in the same sense that the Pharisees professed God as theirs (Matthew 15:1-9) – the phrase is turned inside out, as the Creator is given that fleshly love by which the unregenerate world of men judge things - they take the base word of the Greek, which is transliterated as “agape,” and without even understanding that this word does not mean the very same thing, in every context where it is used in the Scriptures, try to force the one meaning of men they have given it into its every use.
In Mark 10:17-27, in v. 21, Jesus “loved” the rich young ruler, and the word there is ἠγάπησεν (agapasen), which is definitely a form of agape - a verb form - but is this the love that saves? Was God "unable" to "draw" this young man the rest of the way into His "offer" of salvation?
The answer is no, of course, because the context is showing the impossibility of man to save himself - one might argue that it is only speaking of the rich: why, then, the reaction of the disciples ("Who, then, can be saved?")?
The disciples reacted thus because they recognized the plain speech that Jesus was using. Jesus was telling them - and by extension, us - that man values possessions more than he does God to the extent that he will not come to God - it is part and parcel with man's evil nature to value other things, whether concrete “material” possessions, or the insubstantial substance of his own world-view and philosophies, over He who is not merely the most valuable of all, but beyond that; He who owns all there is, is beyond ascribing a price too, and owns all else that might be considered a “treasure;” all that is created by Him, even upholding all these things, and the very being of those who value them above Him (John 1:1-4; Colossians 1:15-17; 2:8-9; Hebrews 1:1-3).
Yet man has created a god in his own image that must come to him, to seek his willing consent, in order to save him; there is no such God in the Scriptures of the one true God, but man is not willing to take the meaning of those Scriptures, so takes one meaning that is used in the context of our Lord and Savior showing us the love which means sacrifice for the benefit of others (Mark 10:45) – and notice, that love is shown in this passage without even the use of any form of agape – as well as the humility of the Creator in the form of the created He made, and took the form of, to perform this service of a magnitude that dwarfs any concept of service man can seek to define – and forces that meaning into every context where the word is used.
Not only that, man limits God to being of that self-sacrificial love which He alone defines, as He created not only those who defy Him, at His will, but the very language they use to convey their perverse ideology of who and what God is and must do, as if He were enslaved to His attributes in any sense, instead of the fact of the matter: Every one of His attributes – EVERY ONE – is to express His glory. His hatred is pure, unadulterated, holy hatred, but do we hear about that (Psalms 11:5-6; Hosea 9:15)?
No, away from us, we cannot have a God who tells us He hates sinners continuously!
Getting back to the context of our passage in Mark 10, it is important to note in what manner Jesus loved this man – this young man who held the commandments towards men from his youth, as he said.
Jesus loved him from a point in time – the tense and mood are plain – and that point is when Jesus looked upon him; however, this was not that sacrificial love of Jesus that surely saves, but the same compassion He had on the multitude of 5000 when He saw that they were hungry, and needed feeding, and healing (John 6:5; Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17); no, this was simply what it is mentioned as in the verse: a love that sprang up for the young man, in whom, boastful as he was about keeping the commandments regarding human relations, was yet without anger, and seeking as he might, yet unable to keep the greatest commandment – he could have given all his goods away, but without taking up his cross and following Jesus, he could have no reward in heaven, and without recognizing he was seeing God, the Son, he could not even want to do that – without a new nature imparted, he was yet a natural man, unable to understand how to worship God in spirit and truth (John 3:3-8; 4:23-24; 1 Corinthians 2:14).
No amount of religious observation can yield eternal life; God has reserved the right for Himself to give such everlasting life as He wills (with God all things are possible!). Placing possessions of any sort above God, regardless of their substance, shows that not only have we failed to truly observe the second great commandment, which is encompassed and springs forth from the first, but that we are unable to do either, for we have not the changed nature that is led and empowered by the Spirit to do these “works prepared beforehand” (Ephesians 2:10).
God’s love – as His hatred, mercy, humility, wrath, righteousness, patience, and all His attributes – can only be understood when we stop trying to humanize what and who He is: Our hallowed Father in heaven, our Lord and King, the uncreated Creator and owner of the universe and all else that is created. Once we understand how far above our thoughts and ways His are – to the extent that we are given to do so by the enlightenment of His Spirit in our new minds, being renewed through the prayerful reading and study of His Word, and in this way, as He designed and equipped us, seeking His wisdom and knowledge – we will begin to comprehend His grace and love as they are: unmerited, given while we were yet His enemies, to those He wills. This is true grace – the pardon for killing His Son, and the new life from that nature of death that would do so again, even as He makes us come forth from the tomb, as Lazarus answered Jesus.