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