Book Review - Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund
Around 60 years ago, an author wrote these words:
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”
I wonder, do they resonate with you? How we view God shapes everything else, doesn’t it? It shapes how we think about ourselves, about others, about what life is all about. And so, it is vital that the right thing comes into our minds.
It is that idea that drives Dane Ortlund to write this wonderful book. In particular, he wants the right things to come into our mind when we think about Jesus. And those right things aren’t just true things about Jesus; they are Jesus’ very heart, his instinctive reactions and thoughts.
Imagine a happily married couple. Imagine asking one of them to describe the other. They may well talk about things their spouse likes or does, favourite foods or hobbies. But they will talk most dearly and deeply about who they are, what their heart is like.
It is exactly this that Ortlund seeks to do with Jesus. In 23 bitesize chapters (normally about 8 pages long), he picks up a different aspect of Christ’s heart towards sinners and sufferers – two words that describe me and I expect describe you too. His burden is simple. He wants to show us the beauty of Christ’s heart, and that it is always (and he means always) for his people, regardless of the mess they make of following him. This isn’t because he wants us to add knowledge for knowledge’s sake. The book is profoundly pastoral and meets us where we are at.
Let’s come back to the question of what comes into our minds when we think of God. Which of these pairs do you most commonly think is his view of you:
Glad or Grumpy?
Delighted or Disappointed?
Tender or Tepid?
Forgiving or Frustrated?
Rejoicing or Resentful?
This book is relentless is showing us that Jesus’ view of us is always the first of each of these pairs, because we are God’s beloved children. Simply put. Jesus is for us. Always.
Picking up verse-after-verse, he calls us to reflect on each beautiful facet of Christ’s heart, weaving them together to give us the most beautiful diamond to behold.
Sometimes you read a book and plan to keep coming back to it. This is one of those books.
Sometimes you read a book and leave it feeling genuinely warmed. This is one of those books.
Sometimes you read a book and know your descriptions can never do it justice. This is one of those books.
And so, let me finish with a couple of many, many quotes I could have used to give a flavour of the pure joy that this book brings:
“For those united to him, the heart of Jesus is not a rental; it is your new permanent residence. You are not a tenant; you are a child. His heart is not a ticking time bomb; his heart is the green pastures and still waters of endless reassurances of his presence and comfort, whatever our present spiritual accomplishments. It is who he is.”
“The evidence of Christ’s mercy toward you is not your life. The evidence of his mercy toward you is his—mistreated, misunderstood, betrayed, abandoned. Eternally. In your place. If God sent his own Son to walk through the valley of condemnation, rejection, and hell, you can trust him as you walk through your own valleys on your way to heaven.”
Whether your spiritual life feels like it is overflowing right now, or the cup is down to its last dregs, this book will do you good. Why? Because it displays Christ’s beauty and invites us to behold it, and there is nothing more worthwhile than that.
He truly is gentle and lowly. His heart is for us. And that can never change.
- Ben Goldenberg, Church Member.