Consider the Romance
Have we considered the loveliness of the heart of Christ? Perhaps beauty is not a category that comes naturally to mind when we think about Christ. Maybe we think of God and Christ in terms of truth, not beauty. But the whole reason we care about sound doctrine is for the sake of preserving God’s beauty, just as the whole reason we care about effective focal lenses on a camera is to capture with precision the beauty we photograph.
Let Jesus draw you in through the loveliness of his heart. This is a heart that upbraids the impenitent with all the harshness that is appropriate, yet embraces the penitent with more openness than we are able to feel. It is a heart that walks us into the bright meadow of the felt love of God. It is a heart that drew the despised and forsaken to his feet in self-abandoning hope. It is a heart of perfect balance and proportion, never overreacting, never excusing, never lashing out. It is a heart that throbs with desire for the destitute. It is a heart that floods the suffering with the deep solace of shared solidarity in that suffering. It is a heart that is gentle and lowly.
So let the heart of Jesus be something that is not only gentle toward you but lovely to you. If I may put it this way: romance the heart of Jesus. All I mean is, ponder him through his heart. Allow yourself to be allured. 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?
When you look at the glorious older saints in your church, how do you think they got there? Sound doctrine, yes. Resolute obedience, without a doubt. Suffering without becoming cynical, for sure. But maybe another reason, maybe the deepest reason, is that they have, over time, been won over in their deepest affections to a gentle Savior. Perhaps they have simply tasted, over many years, the surprise of a Christ for whom their very sins draw him in rather than push him away. Maybe they have not only known that Jesus loved them but felt it.
Our Goal as Parents
Let’s not neglect to think about the children in our lives. Jonathan Edwards told the kids he knew, “There is no love so great and so wonderful as that which is in the heart of Christ.” How might we, in our own way and time, do the same?
What is it that the children whom we greet in the hallways of our church need? Most deeply? Yes, they need friends, and encouragement, and academic support, and good square meals. But might it be that the truest need, the thing that will sustain and oxygenate them when all these other vital needs go unmet, is a sense of the attractiveness of who Jesus is for them? How he actually feels about them?
Our job is to show our kids that even our best love is a shadow of a greater love.
With our own kids, if we are parents, what’s our job? That question could be answered with a hundred valid responses. But at the center, our job is to show our kids that even our best love is a shadow of a greater love. To put a sharper edge on it: to make the tender heart of Christ irresistible and unforgettable. Our goal is that our kids would leave the house at eighteen and be unable to live the rest of their lives believing that their sins and sufferings repel Christ.
This is perhaps the greatest gift my own dad has given me. He taught my siblings and me sound doctrine as we were growing up, to be sure—which is itself a sore neglect across evangelical family life today. But there’s something he has shown me that runs even deeper than truth about God, and that is the heart of God, proven in Christ, the friend of sinners. Dad made that heart beautiful to me. He didn’t crowbar me into that; he drew me in. We too have the privilege of finding creative ways of drawing in the kids all around us to the heart of Jesus. His desire to draw near to sinners and sufferers is not only doctrinally true but aesthetically attractive.
This article is adapted from Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dane C. Ortlund.
Scripture is not silent on the value of children and how parents ought to regard and guide them in wisdom.
You don’t need to unburden or collect yourself and then come to Jesus. Your very burden is what qualifies you to come.
Join Dane Ortlund for a 14-day audio devotional to discover the true heart of Christ for sinners and sufferers.
The gospel flows from God’s deepest heart for his people, a heart of tender love for the sinful and suffering.
As leaders of God’s people, we all long to make a difference for Christ. We don’t want to be unfruitful. The main reason to nurture gentleness is neither pragmatic nor historical, but biblical.
God has not left us to wander aimlessly in the wilderness as we raise our children. He has given us a blueprint for multigenerational faithfulness.
For those of us who are parents, God wants us to esteem the field he’s given us. It’s not a tiring distraction from the true mission field we should be tilling.
It is in “our weaknesses” that Jesus sympathizes with us. His is a love that cannot be held back when he sees his people in pain.
One of the reasons our children are given as a heritage from the Lord is so that we can know and love our heavenly Father more and more.