Every year there are a couple of Christian books published that fall into the “must buy” category. Dane Ortlund’s Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers is one of those books. We mature by marveling at Jesus (Col. 1:28). That means a good book must partially be judged by how much it compels us with the glory and goodness of Jesus. That’s what Ortlund’s book is all about. While it certainly unpacks the person and work of Christ, what’s unique is it’s angle of showing us the heart of Christ. How does he view and treat us as sinners and sufferers? We all want that question answered. If we’re bold enough to say it, we even wonder how he feels about us.
The chapters are short but deep, making this book an excellent book to read slowly and thoughtfully. I tried to read a chapter in the morning because it packs enough Christ-exalting punch to stick with you for the day.
Though part of what makes the book so good is how a whole chapter unfolds the beauty of Christ, meaning there’s much more than these quotes can convey, here are ten of my favorite quotes to whet your appetite.
Meek. Humble. Gentle. Jesus is not trigger-happy. Not harsh, reactionary, easily exasperated. He is the most understanding person in the universe. The posture most natural to him is not a pointed finger but open arms.
The point in saying that Jesus is lowly is that he is accessible. For all his resplendent glory and dazzling holiness, his supreme uniqueness and otherness, no one in human history has ever been more approachable than Jesus Christ.
The cumulative testimony of the four Gospels is that when Jesus Christ sees the fallenness of the world all about him, his deepest impulse, his most natural instinct, is to move toward that sin and suffering, not away from it.
The reason that Jesus is in such close solidarity with us is that the difficult path we are on is not unique to us. He has journeyed on it himself. It is not only that Jesus can relieve us from our troubles, like a doctor prescribing medicine; it is also that, before any relief comes, he is with us in our troubles, like a doctor who has endured the same disease.
Our tendency is to feel intuitively that the more difficult life gets, the more alone we are. As we sink further into pain, we sink further into felt isolation. The Bible corrects us. Our pain never outstrips what he himself shares in. We are never alone. That sorrow that feels so isolating, so unique, was endured by him in the past and is now shouldered by him in the present.
It is the most counterintuitive aspect of Christianity, that we are declared right with God not once we begin to get our act together but once we collapse into honest acknowledgment that we never will.
Christ’s heart is a steady reality flowing through time. It isn’t as if his heart throbbed for his people when he was on earth but has dissipated now that he is in heaven. It’s not that his heart was flowing forth in a burst of mercy that took him all the way to the cross but has now cooled down, settling back once more into kindly indifference. His heart is as drawn to his people now as ever it was in his incarnate state. And the present manifestation of his heart for his people is his constant interceding on their behalf.
God’s forgiving, redeeming, restoring touch reaches down into the darkest crevices of our souls, those places where we are most ashamed, most defeated. More than this: those crevices of sin are themselves the places where Christ loves us the most. His heart willingly goes there. His heart is most strongly drawn there. He knows us to the uttermost, and he saves us to the uttermost, because his heart is drawn out to us to the uttermost. We cannot sin our way out of his tender care.
Out of his heart flows mercy; out of ours, reluctance to receive it. We are the cool and calculating ones, not he. He is open-armed. We stiff-arm. Our naturally decaffeinated views of God’s heart might feel right because we’re being stern with ourselves, not letting ourselves off the hook too easily. Such sternness feels appropriately morally serious. But this deflecting of God’s yearning heart does not reflect Scripture’s testimony about how God feels toward his own.
Whatever is crumbling all around you in your life, wherever you feel stuck, this remains, un-deflectable: his heart for you, the real you, is gentle and lowly. So go to him. That place in your life where you feel most defeated, he is there; he lives there, right there, and his heart for you, not on the other side of it but in that darkness, is gentle and lowly. Your anguish is his home. Go to him. “If you knew his heart, you would.”