by Andrew Hall
John Piper once wrote, “Books don’t change people, paragraphs do—sometimes sentences.” But every now and then, a book comes along that has such a dramatic impact that you don’t want to stop reading it.
Dane Ortlund has written one such book. Gentle and Lowly: Christ’s Heart for Sinners and Sufferers is a work that you won’t want to stop reading, yet at the same time requires slow and thoughtful meditation. While many books have an immediate impact, Gentle and Lowly may have an effect upon its reader for years to come.
What makes this book so profound is how Ortlund captures the heart of Christ. Picking up his queue from Augustine, Ortlund reflects on Matthew 11:29 “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, for I am gentle and lowly in heart.”
But why should we reflect upon the gentle and lowly heart of Christ?
In an age in which social media interactions are characterized by outrage, hot-takes, and sound bites, Ortlund draws us back to Scripture and mines some of the most heart-moving reflections from pastors and theologians in church history to help us come and adore the meek and humble Lord.
For many Christians, they know the facts of the gospel but have not experienced the beauty of the gospel. Ortlund writes for those who feel like they are accepted by God but wonder if they’re truly loved; for the one who has fallen into sin again and questions if Christ’s forgiveness is given more reluctantly rather than joyfully; and for those who have made a mess of their lives by the sinful choices that they have made and suspect that Christ is mildly resentful of them.
These reflections inevitably raise other questions that Ortlund seeks to unpack. What does a gentle and lowly Christ mean when it comes to his two natures? What about the Trinity? Does Christ’s heart have the same current of love as the Father and the Spirit? What about the wrath of God? These questions are not mere theological abstractions but essential to know the heart of God in Christ.
Linger for any time among these pages and you will find your heart stirred to sit at the feet of Jesus. The portrait of Christ that is painted in these pages is gospel infused, laden with theological reflection, and pastorally wise. As you read, Christ’s beauty comes out with glory and goodness, stirring the heart to reveal how precious Christ is to the heart of sinners and sufferers.
Page after page, Ortlund helps us to see how we can come with our messed up lives, distracted prayers, and feeble faith so that we might come boldly to the throne of grace to find mercy and help in our time of need. For those who suffer with a lingering sense of doubt that Christ welcomes and receives sinners, these pages will help cast aside those dark thoughts.
At the end of this book, it is hard to imagine that one could walk away and be unmoved. The shepherding heart of Jesus will challenge parents and pastors, leaders and laity alike. If the heart of Jesus is mercy upon mercy, and his judgment is his strange work (reflecting upon Isa 28:21), how can I not grow more gentle and lowly? If Christ’s embrace welcomes sinners and stirs my heart, how might I be more gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in the steadfast love of the Lord?
Do you want to know the tenderness of Jesus? Do you need to be reminded that you are not only forgiven but being restored? Do you struggle with lingering doubts that Jesus could really love someone like you? Do you find it hard to pray? Are you impatient, short-tempered, and somewhat irritable when things don’t go your way?
Then look deep into the heart of Jesus, the One who is gentle and lowly. You will find rest that your weary soul craves. And you might just find yourself coming back to this book again and again.
This review first appeared on TGC Canada