The Character of Christ: Reflections from “Gentle and Lowly”
Recently, I joined with some College Park staffers for a book study on Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dane Ortlund.This well-written book focuses on showing the heart of Christ towards sinners and sufferers.
We broke the study into eight, weekly discussions of the three chapters we’d most recently read. As we met, we shared some of the quotes and highlights that we’d made. Some weeks, we also prayed through some truths that impacted us.
This book was a fountain of fresh and energizing water to my soul. Each chapter reminded me of an aspect of Christ’s love and compassion for me in a renewing way. Every morning, I would read, process, and write down something from the chapter I was reading. I found myself eager to share with others what I learned by loving and caring for them in the gentle and lowly manner that Jesus loves and cares for me.
As I reflect on Gentle and Lowly, I want to share a few of my favorite quotes:
His Very Heart
“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” (p. 20).
His Heart in Action
“The Jesus given to us in the Gospels is not simply one who loves, but one who is love; merciful affections stream from his innermost heart as rays from the sun… In short: it is impossible for the affectionate heart of Christ to be over-celebrated, made too much of, exaggerated. It cannot be plumbed. But it is easily neglected, forgotten. We draw too little strength from it” (pp. 28; 30)
The Happiness of Christ
“He does not get flustered and frustrated when we come to him for fresh forgiveness, for renewed pardon, with distress and need and emptiness. That’s the whole point. It’s what he came to heal. He went down into the horror of death and plunged out through the other side in order to provide a limitless supply of mercy and grace to his people” (p. 38)
Able to Sympathize
“When the relationship goes sour, when the feelings of futility come flooding in, when it feels like life is passing us by, when it seems that our one shot at significance has slipped through our fingers, when we can’t sort out our emotions, when the longtime friend lets us down, when a family member betrays us, when we feel deeply misunderstood, when we are laughed at by the impressive—in short, when the fallenness of the world closes in on us and makes us want to throw in the towel—there, right there, we have a Friend who knows exactly what such testing feels like, and sits close to us, embraces us. With us. Solidarity” (p. 49)
He Can Deal Gently
“Consider what all this means. When we sin, we are encouraged to bring our mess to Jesus because he will know just how to receive us. He doesn’t handle us roughly. He doesn’t scowl and scold. He doesn’t lash out, the way many of our parents did. And all this restraint on his part is not because he has a diluted view of our sinfulness. He knows our sinfulness far more deeply than we do. Indeed, we are aware of just the tip of the iceberg of our depravity, even in our most searching moments of self-knowledge. His restraint simply flows from his tender heart for his people. Hebrews is not just telling us that instead of scolding us, Jesus loves us. It’s telling us the kind of love he has: rather than dispensing grace to us from on high, he gets down with us, he puts his arm around us, he deals with us in the way that is just what we need. He deals gently with us” (pp. 54-55).
He Can Deal Gently, with Patience
“In other words, when Jesus “deals gently” with us, he is doing what is most fitting and natural to him. Indeed, given the depths of our sinfulness, the fact that Jesus has not yet cast us off proves that his deepest impulse and delight is patient gentleness. Our sinfulness runs so deep that a tepid measure of gentleness from Jesus would not be enough; but as deep our sinfulness runs, ever deeper runs his gentleness” (p. 57).
He Will Never Cast Us Out
“’No, wait’—we say, cautiously approaching Jesus—’you don’t understand. I’ve really messed up, in all kinds of ways.’
I know, he responds.
‘You know most of it, sure. Certainly more than what others see. But there’s perversity down inside me that is hidden from everyone.’
I know it all.
‘Well—the thing is, it isn’t just my past. It’s my present too’
‘But I don’t know if I can break free of this any time soon.’
That’s the only kind of person I’m here to help.
‘The burden is heavy—and heavier all the time.’
Then let me carry it.
‘It’s too much to bear.’
Not for me.
“You don’t get it. My offenses aren’t directed toward others. They’re against you.’
Then I am the one most suited to forgive them.
‘But the more of the ugliness in me you discover, the sooner you’ll get fed up with me.’
Whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (pp. 63-64).
To the Uttermost
“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” (p. 78).