One of the ways we grow in our understanding of God, the world, and ourselves is through the gift of reading. Below is a review of the book Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund written by Morgan Swank. We hope that this review is helpful to you.
I recently picked up a copy of Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dane Ortlund. As the subtitle suggests, the book takes a deeper look at who Christ is towards us, not exclusively what he has done, but what his feelings are towards sinners and sufferers. How do we answer the question, “Who is Jesus?”
The book starts with looking at Matthew 11:29, where Jesus himself describes who he is, “…for I am gentle and lowly in heart…” The author declares how surprising it is that when Jesus can say anything about who he is, his “claim is that he is ‘gentle and lowly in heart.’” Looking deeper into the translation and definition of those words, we see that Jesus’ posture towards us is not harsh, easily angered, or disengaged, but accessible and approachable. This is who Jesus is for those who repent of their sins and turn to him.
This book takes Biblical passages and a variety of teachings from Puritans to more modern day authors and examines them to understand what they say about God’s heart. Often when reading this book it was easy for me to think, “This seems too good to be true.” which echoes Ortlund’s point that we often construct a God similar to ourselves and can forget the true God of the Bible and who he declares himself to be. “Looking inside ourselves, we can anticipate only harshness from heaven. Looking out to Christ, we can anticipate only gentleness.”
Jesus’ heart for us is so much bigger. “For those united to him, the heart of Jesus is not a rental; it is your new permanent residence. You are not a tenant; you are a child. His heart is not a ticking time bomb; his heart is the green pastures and still waters of endless reassurances of his presence and comfort, whatever our present spiritual accomplishments. It is who he is.”
Dane does an excellent job of not minimizing the seriousness of sin or bypassing the totality of the Gospel. In fact, seeing our sin rightly only magnifies the wonder of Christ’s heart for us. “If you are part of Christ’s own body, your sins evoke his deepest heart, his compassion and pity. He ‘takes part with you’ – that is, he’s on your side. He sides with you against your sin, not against you because of your sin. He hates sin. But he loves you.”
The author looks at different facets of who Christ is, from his ability to sympathize with our weaknesses, his saving power, to his intercession and advocacy for us. He also spends time looking at the implications of the Trinity on God’s heart for us. Reading this book feels a bit like drinking out of a fire hose. I came away from this book with a profound realization that I carry with me a very small and limited understanding of Jesus’ heart. I often create the framework in which I think he can love me without letting him define the terms by which he loves me.
“God’s heart of compassion confounds our intuitive predilections about how he loves to respond to his people if they would but dump in his lap the ruin and wreckage of their lives. He isn’t like you. Even the most intense of human love is but the faintest echo of heaven’s cascading abundance.”
Jesus’ heart toward us is beyond our comprehension and makes me long for the day when we will at last see him face-to-face.