Gentle and Lowly
By Lauren Graham
If you have spoken to me at all since January 2022, it’s highly likely I’ve managed to bring Dane Ortlund’s Gentle and Lowly into the conversation somehow. I have been talking about this book since I finished it, and I will probably be talking about it for the rest of my life. Ortlund’s exploration of the heart of Christ has completely changed my view of Jesus, and subsequently impacted my view of the entire gospel.
When we catch a glimpse of Christ’s heart as gentle and lowly, his most natural response being to pour forth mercy to us, we begin to see the depth of His never-failing love for us.
For I am gentle and lowly in heart
If you feel discouraged or empty, if you need rest, or if you feel like God’s patience with you is wearing thin – read this book. The book centers on the verse in Matthew 11 where Jesus declares, ‘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.’ Do you know this is the only place in scripture where Jesus speaks directly about his heart?
The Bible over and over refers to the heart as being the very core of a person’s being, and the only time Jesus speaks of the core of who he is, he uses the words “gentle and lowly”. This doesn’t mean he is weak, or timid, or easily intimidated. No – it means he is the most approachable, kind and merciful person we could ever have the pleasure of meeting.
Think of the kindest and most gentle person you know – I think of my Grandad Bobby. He is softspoken and kind, a brilliant listener and full of godly wisdom. And yet, he is not as gentle and kind and merciful as Jesus Christ himself. As much as Christ is powerful and just, he is merciful and kind. His love for us is so perfect, so full that he cannot hold back from us – it is simply not in his nature. How crazy is that?
‘Who could ever have thought up such a Saviour?’
Ortlund explores what this gentle and lowly heart looks like throughout the scriptures, and draws a number of conclusions from this. One such conclusion has stuck with me:
‘Contrary to what we expect to be the case, therefore, the deeper into weakness and suffering and testing we go, the deeper Christ’s solidarity with us. As we go down into pain and anguish, we are descending ever deeper into Christ’s very heart, not away from it. Look to Christ. He deals gently with you.’ (pp. 57)
Christ’s very heart, his most natural response to your sin and your weakness and your suffering, is gentleness and mercy. He grieves as we grieve, and his heart aches for our fallen nature as ours does. When we come to him, he does not hold us at arm’s length, but gathers us in and lavishes upon us the mercy, love and grace of God. ‘Who could ever have thought up such a Saviour?’ (pp.19)
There are a million other things I could draw out of this book, but I will leave it at that, and instead I will urge you to pick up this book. Even better, choose a gospel and read it start to finish. Allow the story of Jesus’ life to speak for itself. Looking at it from the lens of Jesus’ very heart being gentle and lowly, full of love and mercy, and you will feel yourself fall in love with Him all over again.
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