Updated: Aug 24, 2021
Ortund, Dane. Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers, Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2020.
For many people and churches, 2020 was a difficult year. Many churches were shuttered by the politics of the land, and many church doors were shut down. Society is still grappling with the ramifications as the ugly data is coming out. Suicides skyrocketed across all demographics. Hallmarks of clinical depression, anxiety, and loneliness are rampant in society. As providential timing works, Dane Ortlund’s Gentle and Lowly brings us to a place we need, the gentle, tender heart of Christ.
In one of the most talked-about Christian books of 2020, Gentle and Lowly serve the church and the Christian by directing us to an important aspect of the person of Jesus Christ. Ortlund’s subtitle captures the much-needed application for our present situation, The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers. In just over 200 pages, Ortlund gives a cursory look at biblical passages that highlight the tenderness of Jesus Christ. The book is comprised of twenty-three short sections, with each one highlighting an element of Jesus’ person and compassion to the sinner and sufferer. The main thesis is one that American Christianity readily needs to recapture, “It is impossible for the affectionate heart of Christ to be overcelebrated (sic), made too much of, exaggerated.” The main theme that readers will draw from Gentle and Lowly is that “in Jesus Christ, we are given a friend who will always enjoy rather than refuse our presence.”
Crossway has done a good job marketing the book for a broad readership. Also, due to a generous donation, many churches received free copies. Covenant Reformed was blessed to receive enough copies for every person to have one. The approachability and tenderness of the book will be well received by our church. We will also be using it for some discussions during Sunday School in the coming months.
While there were aspects of the book that I did not enjoy, the overall thrust makes it a worthwhile read. My biggest hope is two-fold. First, readers will be led to ponder and pray more deeply about what it means for Christ, the king over all creation, to be a tender savior and friend today. The path of salvation build by Christ’s blood is open and welcoming. Passages like John 6:67 (‘the one who comes to me will never be cast out’), Heb 5:2 (‘deal gently with those who are ignorant), and Heb 4:15-16 (he is able to sympathize), and Rom 8:34 (‘he intercedes for us’) are important dimensions to enjoying the Gospel of Jesus Christ today.
My second hope is that the quotations from voices of prior Christians will spark interest in reading works before 1970s America. I fear and lament that far too many Christians have a faith that late American authors almost exclusively influence. There is a significant error and loss of failing to draw on the great cloud of witnesses. The best parts of Ortlund’s work are the points that he draws on voices like Jonathan Edwards, John Bunyan, Thomas Goodwin, and Richard Sibbes. Christians will do well to pull and tug on the works of prior generations, especially those from around the world. By turning to the cloud of witnesses, we recognize that we are not alone, the problems we face are not new, and through all seasons, the promises and grace of Christ are sufficient to bring human flourishing to the hearts of God’s children.
I am thankful for Ortlund’s work and even more grateful for Crossway’s generosity to get this work in the hands of many. I look forward to hearing the benefits that my congregation will experience from reading it too.