Gentle and Lowly: Discussion of Chapter 5 — He Can Deal Gently

Hi @Interested_In_Book_Studies,

In Chapter 5, Ortlund dives into the depths of comfort we find in Hebrews 5:2, “He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward.”

Ortlund discusses the rich Old Testament background to this verse. In doing so, he concludes, “the point is that Jesus deals gently and only gently with all sinners who come to him, irrespective of their particular offense and just how heinous it is.”

This is not to soft play God’s wrath. As the chapter states:

If we never come to him, we will experience a judgment so fierce it will be like a double-edged sword coming out of his mouth at us (Rev. 1:16; 2:12; 19:15, 21).

If we do come to him, as fierce as his lion-like judgment would have been against us, so deep will be his lamb-like tenderness for us (cf. Rev. 5:5–6; Isa. 40:10–11).

We will be enveloped in one or the other. To no one will Jesus be neutral.

At the same time, the letter to the Hebrews assures us that Jesus deals gently with us, not with reluctance or frustration, but because that is his very nature:

More than this, Christ’s “meekness and gentleness,” his “patience and moderation,” is not peripheral or accidental to who Christ is, as if his truest delights lie elsewhere. This very care, this gentle dealing with all kinds of sinners, is what is most natural to him.

Drawing on the insights of John Owen, this chapter helps us realize that if Jesus were not gentle by nature, we would not have the savior we need.

The fact is, “Our sinfulness runs so deep that a tepid measure of gentleness from Jesus would not be enough; but as deep our sinfulness runs, ever deeper runs his gentleness.”

And so while we might wish to make ourselves appear strong and powerful because we fear our sin and weakness, we do not need to do this.


As we go down into pain and anguish, we are descending ever deeper into Christ’s very heart, not away from it.

The embrace of our sinfulness and weakness is, in God’s gentle mercy, the path to more fully understanding the fullness of Christ’s heart for us.

Ortlund explains the difference this way:

Looking inside ourselves, we can anticipate only harshness from heaven. Looking out to Christ, we can anticipate only gentleness.

What a remarkable truth! How contrary to human expectations!

All sinners.
All sin.
All situations.

If we will but come to Jesus, he will deal gently with us in our misery and wickedness.

It seems to me that one area of resistance to this teaching is pride. It sounds like this:

Ok, I’ve sinned a great deal, but maybe I can make it up to God by heroic actions!

Ok, I need forgiveness for many sins, but I’m not too bad overall.

Ok, I messed up in the past, but I’m doing better now. I’ve got this.

While these might sound good, and might sound familiar, they are a way of dealing harshly with ourselves.

With the gentle care of Jesus, let us humble ourselves to further receive the gentle dealing that Jesus offers as we expose our sin to him and seek the path of mature obedience.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Are you harsh in dealing with your own sin?
  2. Are you harsh in responding to the sin of others?
  3. How will you look out to Christ today?
  1. Are you harsh in dealing with your own sin?

I am. Disappointed. Not measured up at times. But, I am so grateful some mornings for the clean slate of forgiveness - never being casted out. Being dealt with as sinfully weak so gently by the savior/high priest who was sinlessly weak. Loved that quote.

  1. Are you harsh in responding to the sin of others? I rarely say it out loud, but confess that in my mind I ask of my brothers from time to time: Why can’t you be kind? Why are you so judgmental? Those times in my mind I am such a beneficiary of one who does not do that for me. Thankfully my reactions “most often” but not always turn to prayer for that person - that they would see others and treat others differently. So, while not harsh, I certainly struggle to emulate the gentleness of which I am granted as hypocritical as I know that to be.

  2. How will you look out to Christ today? I pray today that I go into my meetings with kindness and care in the midst of complaints, litigation, cheating and greed relying on the spirit to guide my tongue and actions in a way that cannot be explained other than through the one that guides me.

Thank you Carson for leading this study and your care at midnight last night to put this together.


I used to become very angry with myself, but I have been changing. I would not say that I am harsh to myself now, but I sometimes do become entrapped in a melancholy cycle of introspection whenever I sin. It is more like I ask myself what I did wrong and what I can do to make amends. I am increasingly able to go to the person against whom I sinned and admit my fault and apologize. The process of processing the sin can become quite a drag, though; I often feel that I need to go to a lonely place and meditate in the dark. I can become very glum. This sometimes worries my wife and son. I do not believe that this is all bad, but I do not like the fact that it affects my family so much.

Part of my melancholy cycle has to do with struggling against bitterness against the other person. Sometimes the person really did wrong me, but I realize that I also might have wronged the other, and my introspection feels like an actual battle against demonic forces–not that I am fearful of possession, but Satan is a very sneaky and powerful deceiver. Satan wants me to begrudge the other person and not admit my fault, or at least excuse it and treat it as a lesser sin than the other’s. I spend these times praying to Jesus for help and figuring things out. I want to be harsh, but I know that it is wrong and so I pray to Jesus. He never shortchanges me.

I read Ephesians 6:13-18 and pray through it each morning because this is my way of equipping myself in the spiritual armor that Jesus gives me to fight whatever battles I will face. It is always my first act of devotion that day. It then naturally leads into my prayers–“…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,…” (Ephesians 6:18, ESV)–and then I read my passage for the day. This could be anything that involves Bible reading. Right now I am making my way through Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening. This is how I look to Christ every day. It does not prevent me from sinning. Some of Apollyon’s fiery darts still penetrate my defenses and sometimes he surprises me. Jesus helps me to endure the battle and I know that no matter what happens he stands with me because he loves me.


I loved the quote that Carson brought out!..

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“Our sinfulness runs so deep that a tepid measure of gentleness from Jesus would not be enough; but as deep our sinfulness runs, ever deeper runs his gentleness.”

…It reminds me of the song, “The Love Of God”. :heart:

  1. Are you harsh in dealing with your own sin?

Often times I feel like I’m not hard enough on myself especially when it wasn’t a sin against anyone else, but perhaps something in my relationship with God. But even then, I guess I’m harsh on myself because of not being harder on myself. :woozy_face: I desire to walk in the forgiveness God has given me when I come to Him in repentance and worship — the act of submitting every part of myself under His control, but I don’t want to lose the fear of the Lord either and treat sin lightly (regardless the sin’s color and size) neither do I want to (if I can use the word) ‘abuse‘ His loving kindness as Paul would say in Romans 6:1&2

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?.

When it’s against another person, I can tend to be harsh on myself although the fact that there was error also means there’s a possibility for reconciliation, which I actively pursue. The fact is that sin divides, therefore, creating disunity and causing the friendship or relationship to be stunted in some area. We cannot, in our right minds, remain at such a spot in our lives if we are to wholeheartedly walk in the freedom of Christ. We must seek reconciliation, and when we do find or give that forgiveness let us walk freely in it!!

Matthew 5:23 & 24

Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.

God has designed it within us to come to a resolve. Even in music, the dissonance left unresolved can be very unsettling although, when resolved, the notes following seem to become clearer and sometimes more powerful or moving, allowing the dynamics to rise and fall and come together in a beautiful song.
Often times, it draws a relationship closer when we recognize when we have failed and, by God’s grace, get back up. As was once said, “There’s many angles at which an individual may fall, but only one at which one can stand upright.” We need each other to help us get back up so we can stand together again as we look upward to our Father.

Ecclesiastes 4:9&10

Two are better than one… For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.

  1. Are you harsh in responding to the sin of others?

Normally, I’m harsh on myself for how I responded to them, e.g. Was I not kind enough? Was it my fault that they committed this sin? Could I have helped prevent it in any way? Although, to be honest and with the handicap of my imperfectness, I do often find myself responding differently depending on the sin.:confused: (Something the Lord is working with me on!)

  1. How will you look out to Christ today?

Romans 6:22

But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

My prayer is that I would walk in the freedom of His righteousness and forgiveness as sin no longer has rule over us, who are washed by His blood!
One thing that I was challenged by yesterday, while listening to one of Ravi’s podcasts, was when he brought out the following main points in his talk: Postures of the mind, affections of the heart 1) learn how to forget and 2) choose what you’re going to remember… May we learn what to forget as Christ forgives and purges us of our sins and, in return, forgive and forget the sins of others! And May we remember that there is, therefore, now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:1):pray:t3:


Excellent sermon by Ravi. I purchased and downloaded it when I first listened to it months ago and sent it to someone who is really having difficulty with her marriage. Abandonment is a hard thing to forgive.


God speaks. This morning I read my Spurgeon and–“Lo!”–he meditated on the following verse:

“…but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.” (Daniel 11:32, ESV)

He listed several things that those who know God can be, one of which is patience:

How shall we have patience unless we know something of the sympathy of Christ, and understand the good which is to come out of the correction which our heavenly Father sends us?

See any key words for our study here? :grinning:


Spurgeon, C. H. (1896). Morning and evening: Daily readings. London: Passmore & Alabaster.


Thanks for sharing that @blbossard! I love reading C.H. Spurgeon’s morning and evening devotions. I just read this mornings after you mentioned that — such a blessing and very inspiring!


That sermon has left a great impression in my mind! So thankful for the ‘voice’ of Ravi that still reaches out and touches lives today!


I am sometimes very harsh in dealing with my own sin. The memory of sins I regret deeply can creep in to burden me, and I am not very kind to myself in those moments. Conversely there are times I hardly even take note of some sins when I consider them justified or not that bad. The truth is every sin was sufficient to take Jesus to the cross. So I am a mixture of extremes. But the remedy for each extreme is to reflect on my Savior as He hung on the cross. He deemed my sinful soul worth ransoming.

I can inwardly be harsh with others’ sins at times as well. But those I love most deeply, I often approach with more gentleness and understanding. Their sin is no less severe (than those I love less), but my heart is tender toward them in their suffering. How much more is Jesus’ heart tender toward us?

When I look at my responses in light of Jesus’ responses I long to be more like Him. Regarding each of the questions you have asked, Carson, I believe the answer/solution is the same…my hope, my rescue, my remedy comes in fixing my eyes on Jesus, and in seeing His heart for me and for those around me.

I recently heard someone on the radio talking about how we look at things and how that impacts us. They were saying something to the affect that there are certain things in life that we should only glance at (i.e. current events that we need to keep abreast of, but that often feel overwhelming) and other things we should gaze at (i.e. things of beauty that remind us of the good that is in life). I need to be aware of my sin, and remember the very great cost that Jesus paid to purchase my wayward heart. Yet to fix my gaze upon my sin, is to sink into the mire of despondency and regret. While to fix my gaze upon Jesus, is to find relief from my sin, and hope as I press on toward the goal. May I extend that same grace to others yet more and more!

I have found this book study very engaging. I will look out for Christ today by gazing at the truths we are unwrapping in this study. May my heart become a true reflection of His gentle and lowly heart!


Perhaps this is a good thing for us to remember when we get frustrated with others for doing the same thing over and over again, or even argue with us when we confront them about something that is clear to us. This is why Jesus prayed to his Father to forgive his persecutors because they did not know what they were doing. We do not know what we are doing. How many times does Jesus pray that same prayer in our behalf behind the scenes?

How often we post snark on public sites like Twitter or Facebook about people we do not know! We treat strangers with complete contempt. Isn’t it good to know that none of us are strangers to Jesus?


Hi Charity,

I really appreciate that you brought up Ravi’s podcast of “Postures of the Mind, Affections of the Heart”. I had not heard that podcast before. I had some encounters this week that made that podcast so relevant. It amazes me how God goes before us and prepares us for what is to come. Thank you so much for sharing!


So true!


Praise the Lord! Thanks for sharing that encouraging word, Belle. Yes, God knows exactly what we need, when we need it!


I think I deal with it as Christ has. I move on and allow God to continue to move me toward holiness in Him. I am a sinner. My sin now days are not a painful to others as they use to be. I use to lie all the time to look better. I use to lust and do all the things that go with it. I use to live in shame and try to hide from God. Now I know that I am a child of God and nothing I do can separate His love for me. I also know that I have a high priest interceding for me in the Holy of Holies. When things come in my head I confess and give them to him and He nails them to the cross. I do not want to discount the blood that was shed for me or trample on the cross. I do not want to add to the sins that Jesus resolved for me. He took it all. And He did it willingly and it is counted against me no more. Now days I do not walk in the sin of my past but I do pray regularly Psalm 139:23-24:

“Search me o God and know my heart,
Test me and know my anxious thoughts,
See is there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.”

He is still working in me and making me into the image of Jesus. If I fall I get back up. I recognize what happened and if the trap comes again I try to go around it. But most importantly I do what Peter did when He was sinking into the water. I fix my eyes on Jesus and he keeps me afloat. I confess my sins immediately and do not let them linger. There is no shame here only love. Like a good Father and that is what He is. I want to be like Jesus so I welcome God’s pruning and discipline with open arms. It may hurt really bad but it is worth everything to be refined in the fire to be more like Him.

Proverbs 24:16:
For a righteous man may fall seven times
And rise again,
But the wicked shall fall by calamity.

I get up and I continue walking in the light of Jesus striving for the perfection that I may never reach. But I want to be like Him. That is my heart’s desire.

I don’t think I am. I think though it may matter who it is against. If the offense is against themselves no. If It is against a friend maybe that is different. I think though that I have been forgiven much and I know I am capable of anything that anyone does so my reaction is not harsh. That could have been me in that same situation so I am better equipped at dealing out God’s grace. I hope that is how I am to all people and all offenses.

I saw a documentary recently about Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He and his friends had some really hard decisions to make. They took it on themselves to try and kill Hitler. They came really close to enacting God’s vengeance with a bomb that was set off in a conference room. Hitler survived and become emboldened and got more of a God complex. I got to thinking what I would do if Adolf Hitler was in the room with me. Would I kill him if I had the chance to do it. I don’t think I would. I would strap him up and turn Him in. “Well what if….” I don’t have to go there. I think Dietrich and his friends were wrong to try and in the end that decision was what ultimately got them killed. But that do I know sitting in my recliner with my feet up typing on a laptop and the hardest decision I have to make is what to do with my kids and the COVID virus. But out of that thinking it may have changed my way of thinking a little bit for the better. Our battle is not against flesh and blood but the evil unseen realm which is working all around us.

Jesus is my understanding and compassionate high priest. I confess my sins and He is faithful to forgive them. The Holy Spirit resides in me. I am a temple of the living God. Jesus is my high priest in the Holy of Holiest in heave. The vail is torn and am allowed in the throne room of God with humility and boldness hiding nothing for He knows it all and knows me better then I know myself. He knows the intent of my heart. I love Him deeply. I abide in His love.


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  1. When revealed by the Spirit, I find myself quiet and sullen, pondering my infraction. If against God, I find myself journaling my confession and asking for forgiveness. Strength, wisdom and courage to not repeat. If against another, I go to ask for forgiveness. So, harsh? Maybe at one time in my younger years, but now knowing God’s character better and understanding his love for me, …maybe not so much so. Not being harsh is not to be confused with overlooking.
  2. Coming from a legalistic background, I used to be highly critical of others’ sins. The Lord has been gracious, merciful and kind in dealing with me and bringing me along in my maturity. I am not critical anymore, I am broken hearted for those that do not see or those that choose to not see. I still seek to find that balance knowing when I am called to say something (because I have), called to love them through the consequences of (because I have), or called to walk away (and again, because I have).
  3. Listening to Ravi’s Grand Weaver has me looking for the wonderment of it all. Instead of the seeing the ugly, focus on the silver lining. I used to be good at this in my younger years, but I do find it a bit more challenging in these times. So maybe I need to will look out for the wonderment. (I am sure I understood this question clearly)

@clark.belle I think you summed up what I was trying to say! Maybe I did get the question.


I really appreciate your reflections, Marie! The Lord really does have to teach us how to walk all of this out. Our natural man is not prone to gentleness or lowliness, either with ourselves or others. It is truly amazing to look back and see how He was working all along (and thankfully still is!) to form us more and more into the image of Jesus. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I find them encouraging!