Gentle and Lowly | Dane C. Ortlund

Summary of: Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers
By: Dane C. Ortlund


The book ‘Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers’ by Dane C. Ortlund takes a deep dive into the seldom-discussed heart of Jesus Christ, so often overlooked compared to other aspects of his life and ministry. Exploring the heart of Jesus reveals his gentle, humble, and tender nature, his compassion for the suffering, and his capacity for forgiveness. This introduction will provide readers a snapshot of the key topics and themes that can be expected in the book summary, showcasing Jesus’s unwavering commitment to sinners, sufferers, and the broken.

Jesus: A Gentle and Lowly Heart

The Bible provides us with a single scripture that describes Jesus’s heart as gentle and lowly. This heart is not harsh or reactive, but humble, understanding, and tender. Jesus’s loyalty, devotion, and love are not aimed at impressive or powerful people; instead, they are reserved for those who have sinned, failed, and suffered. His gentle heart welcomes all, especially in times of doubt and anxiety, offering love, patience, and healing.

The eighty-nine chapters in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John go into great detail describing Jesus’s life, teachings, and resurrection. However, when it comes to his heart, we find only one scripture as our guiding star.

Imagine trying to describe your life partner by sharing only their daily routine or work habits. Such information wouldn’t paint a complete picture of their soul. Similarly, to understand Jesus truly, we need to delve into the scripture that describes his heart: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30)

This passage reveals that Jesus’s heart is not harsh, reactive, or accusatory; it is humble, understanding, and tender. Further insight on this gentleness can be found in the New Testament through other scriptures, such as in Matthew 5:5, which states that “the meek” will inherit the earth, and in Peter’s declaration urging us to nourish our hearts by embracing a gentle and quiet spirit (1 Peter 3:4).

As for being “lowly,” Jesus embodies humility not only as a virtue but also as the understanding and acceptance of suffering through adversity. This kind of humility is also referenced in the Old Testament, where the original Greek word for lowliness is used to express the importance of embracing humility amidst challenges (Luke 1:52, Romans 12:16).

Contrary to favoring the impressive or powerful, Jesus’s gentle and lowly heart reserves its loyalty, devotion, and love for those who have sinned, failed, disappointed, and suffered. He doesn’t aim to punish or discipline but to impart love, patience, and healing upon those who feel weak or lost.

While life will never be devoid of challenges and losses, we can find solace in knowing that Jesus’s gentle heart is always there, welcoming us and offering support, especially when our insecurities, doubts, and anxieties seem overwhelming.

Christ’s Unwavering Compassion

Often, humans project their own insecurities and limitations onto others, causing judgment and distance. However, Jesus’ actions and words throughout the Bible demonstrate a heart filled with unwavering compassion. He consistently engaged with the afflicted and the grieving, sharing his care and wisdom. This intrinsic willingness to confront the brokenness of the world and remain a source of support signifies an extraordinary heart.

In human nature, we typically project our own fears and misunderstandings onto others, associating their qualities with specific behaviors. For example, we may assume that wealthy individuals will look down on the poor or that attractive people will be repelled by those considered less attractive. When examining Jesus’ actions in the Bible, a different story emerges.

When a leper approached Jesus and asked to be cleansed, Jesus did not hesitate or react in disgust. Instead, he reached out to touch the man and said, “I will; be clean” (Matthew 8:2-3). Jesus’ willingness to engage with the man and provide healing exemplifies the compassion he manifests throughout the scriptures.

Numerous examples of Jesus’ deep empathy can be found in the Bible. He heals the sick, feeds the hungry, imparts wisdom upon those seeking it, and comforts those in grief. The Greek word for “compassion” refers to one’s innermost core, indicating that Jesus’ care for others originates from the depth of his heart.

The Bible recounts two instances in which Jesus wept, not for his own suffering, but for the pain of others. He mourned for Jerusalem (Luke 19:41) and for his deceased friend Lazarus (John 11:35). Jesus’ deepest anguish stemmed from the distress of those around him.

Considering Jesus’ actions, one can compare his behavior to the Old Testament’s concept of clean versus unclean – not in terms of hygiene but rather moral purity. In the Old Testament, cleanliness was achieved through sacrifice, and guilt marked uncleanliness. Contact with an unclean person would, in turn, make a clean individual unclean. However, Jesus consistently moved towards the suffering and fallen without shying away or becoming corrupted.

Jesus’ profound compassion and unwavering engagement with the brokenness of the world demonstrate his extraordinary heart. No matter how dirty or morally unclean an individual might be, Jesus willingly approached them and offered his support. By consistently choosing to confront the world’s filth and remain a source of healing, Jesus exemplified a truly golden heart.

Embracing Divine Grace

The journey to understanding and accepting the gift of God’s love can be a spiritual challenge. We often struggle with an inner sense of guilt when presented with something so selfless and forgiving. But, as theologians like Jürgen Moltmann and John Calvin have reassured, God’s ways are not bound by our human logic. A world marred with war, disease, and death, often obscures the miraculous moments where divine patterns of God reveal themselves. Calvin’s interpretation of Isaiah 55:8 underlines how different God’s thoughts and ways are from ours, allowing us to appreciate the divine grace we receive.

The human tendency to seek balance and order naturally leads us to a tit-for-tat mentality, grounded in a survival mechanism. However, this utilitarian thinking is a reflection of our own spiritual limitations. As an example, imagine a father gifting his daughter a precious dollhouse, only for her to attempt paying him back with loose change. Rather than being grateful, the father is saddened by his child’s inability to fully receive his generosity.

This limited viewpoint often leads us to assume that God operates within the same human logic dictated by envy, jealousy, and anger. However, the Bible reminds us that God’s heart is quite the opposite of our own, full of compassion, tenderness, and overflowing with a love capable of renewing and redeeming. It is essential to recognize the inherent chasm between our human understanding and the divine grace of God, embracing His love wholeheartedly without the constraints of an earthbound perspective.

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