Gentle and Lowly: Discussion of Chapter 10 — The Beauty of the Heart of Christ

Hi @Interested_In_Book_Studies,

Let’s help each other understand the meaning of Matthew 10:37,

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.

In this chapter, Ortlund quotes extensively from Jonathan Edwards to make his case.

For me, at the outset, I think we have to frankly acknowledge the painful and terrible tension between Edwards’ theology and his complicity in slavery. Jason Meyer, among others, has reflected on Edwards’ grievous sin. Let’s be clear: “owning” another human being is wicked! The most substantial criticism I have of Gentle and Lowly so far is its omission of this part of the historical record. My own conviction is that if we have the time to provide praiseworthy reference towards Edwards then we also have the time to lament the evil of his participation in slavery.

Still, it is also true there are gems of insight in his theology. My hope is that understanding more of the goodness of God will help us to flee from our own sin. In particular, as we journey through this chapter, may God illuminate our hearts to oppose slavery and all forms of racial discrimination.

One quote from Edwards is this:

There is no love so great and so wonderful as that which is in the heart of Christ.

In what ways is Christ’s love “so great and so wonderful”?

One way that Christ wins us is with the beauty of his loving heart. Edwards explains:

Everything that is lovely in God is in Christ, and everything that is or can be lovely in any man is in him: for he is man as well as God, and he is the holiest, meekest, most humble, and every way the most excellent man that ever was.

How do we respond to beauty? Ortlund recommends a simple practice:

Why not build in to your life unhurried quiet, where, among other disciplines, you consider the radiance of who he actually is, what animates him, what his deepest delight is? Why not give your soul room to be reenchanted with Christ time and again?

As I consider this insight in light of Matthew 10:37, it is a humbling realization.

The natural love of a child for her father or mother is a powerful one. When we think of the intimate trust and even adoration of a little child for her parents, it is one of the sweetest and most moving sights we can witness. (And reminds us that abuse and neglect of children is something our Father in heaven passionately opposes).

And yet Jesus calls us to love him even more. The only way to make sense of this in our hearts is to ‘see’ and ‘understand’ the loveliness of Christ.

To take it from another angle, I might have wondered how anyone could ask me to love someone greater than my high school crush. At the time, that would have seemed unreasonable. But then I met the woman who became my wife. Now I can see that my juvenile understanding was not at all in line with a mature understanding of what is truly beautiful, lovely, and admirable.

Discussion questions:

  1. How do you resolve the tension between the unique insight of Edwards’ theology and his participation in slavery?

  2. What art or literature has helped you to better understand the loveliness of Christ?


In the words of a friend, “Take the best and leave the rest.” Isaiah 53:6 says:

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (ESV)

Jonathan Edwards is no worse than I am. I am sure that I have my blind spots. If I did not, then I would know what they were! If I do not want people to throw my good ideas out because I have some bad ones, then I should not throw Jonathan Edwards’s good ideas out even though he did not see the evil of American slavery. His theology was solid in this case even if he owned slaves. I tried to find a public domain copy of the sermon that Ortlund cited, but I could not find one. If I do, I will make sure to read it and see if it is something that I can safely read to my son. I think that it probably would be a good and thoughtful read. This is easier for me than for others, of course; I understand why some may not like the concept. I think, however, that we need to remember Romans 2, which says that we do the same things.

I pray every day that my son loves God more than anything else on Earth. I unabashedly try to teach him to love God more than me or his mommy. This is not hard for me at all. I believe that if he is afraid to tell us that we are doing something wrong or even report us to the authorities if we are doing something wrong, then I have done a poor job. He needs to love God more than me, because I will fail, and Jesus never fails. I so love this chapter for this reason.

I have said it before, and will say it again, that Les Misérables taught me so much about the loveliness of Jesus as lived out in a man’s life that it profoundly affected my worldview. If I can teach my son what Jean Valjean taught to Cosette in this novel then I believe that I will have done my duty as a father. I also saw the loveliness of Christ in the sacrificial love of PFC Desmond Doss in the documentary, The Conscientious Objector. (His exploits are cinematically depicted in Hacksaw Ridge, but I do not recommend this movie for general audiences because it is very violent.) If Jean Valjean and PFC Doss represent facets of Jesus’s loveliness, then he must be very lovely indeed.


Gentle & Lowly, Chapter 10

Addressing Matthew 10:37 is of significant importance because it is essentially an issue of idolatry for many. The verse states, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.” We just spent some time with a friend who still deeply mourns the passing of her parents that occurred several years ago. Wouldn’t the proper Christian response be to dwell on the warm, loving memories, thanking and praising God for them? That seems to be the ideal at least. Many times, while sharing my faith with another, I have gotten a response of, “yes I want to go to Heaven, I just don’t want to go anytime soon.” To think so little of Almighty God, His Christ, and His Heaven is somewhat shocking to me. The loving heart of God sent Jesus, who is himself God, to this earth to rescue us from our sinful selves. I don’t believe we humans are remotely capable of comprehending the incredible love and grace of God. Even when we blow it, he declares believers forgiven and righteous in his sight. Unbelievable! Many greatly trivialize God’s great love for us by making people and things+++++ an idol in their life.

Mr. Edwards waxes eloquent when describing the sweet, sweet grace and kindness of Jesus, yet he seemed to miss a very important command of Jesus; “love your neighbor as yourself.” He had slaves. Even though his view of Jesus was very rich, yet he missed some very important matters. Two things drew me into a deep relationship with Jesus: his loving grace and forgiveness, and his declaration of the gift of righteousness to all true believers. The issue for all of us is to keep a constant focus on Jesus and his word lest we find we have strayed into error in our believing. I am conscious of the old adage: “but for the grace of God there go I.”

What art or literature has helped me to better understand the loveliness of Christ? I listen to good teaching, including RZIM, and for the past several years I have focused on scriptures related to God’s love for man—you and me. I have also been studying many scriptures related to God’s forgiveness and that he imparts to believers “the gift of righteousness.” Not many Christians believe these scriptures, and in fact, I am not sure Edwards believed them. As I have meditated on these wonderful scriptures that are not often taught, I find myself drawn into a two-way loving relationship with my savior. This has led to several incredible encounters with Jesus. Eleven years ago, I reconnected with a woman I briefly dated in high school. We began talking often, and I began praying fervently. One morning I said, “Father, I would be so honored if I could lead her to faith in Jesus. I heard the Holy Spirit say, “those are the kind of prayers I like you to pray.” As I heard those words the room was filled with His presence, and I was weeping tears of Joy. More recently I experienced the miracle healing of a totally severed tendon in my right hand. After bandaging and splitting it we prayed fervently and took communion every day. Three days later my wife suggested I unwrap my hand. When I did my hand was healed and worked perfectly. This was witnessed by two doctors. We are so deeply loved by our amazing savior.