He’s shown himself to be one who, although without sin and perfect in every way, can dwell with sinners. So now, with us as his people, it’s true, we are very sinful. But take heart, he hasn’t changed. He still longs to enter into the life of sinners. He still loves sinners. And because of such love, he’s in us sinners and changing us sinners to look more like his sinless self.
At a Bible study at our church recently, we came upon the point in Colossians where the climax of the gospel is, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Remarking on the text, someone in the Bible study said, “But I’ve always wondered, ‘How could Christ be in me, when I’m so sinful?’”
It was apt insight. Christ is holy. And in a certain sense, the Bible says God cannot even look at sin (Habakkuk 1:13). So how can Jesus live in sinners like us?
What I said in response was inspired by the Gentle and Lowly book by Dane Ortlund I’ve been reading. There, Ortlund convincingly shows that Christ’s heart—the Triune God’s heart—is gentle, humble, and one which draws him near in mercy to sinners. This is supported from Jesus’s earthly life, but also from the epistles written about Jesus and from the Old Testament which foreshadowed Jesus.
But perhaps best of all, we could argue, we see this merciful heart in Jesus’s earthly life. Yes, he was appropriately tough against those who spurned his mercy and presumed to be children of God by virtue of their own works or ethnicity. Yet above all, Jesus was “gentle and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29). He entered with mercy into the sinful lives of many. He gently loved his disciples. And he generally become known as a “friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Luke 7:34).
Most of all, he showed this gentle and lowly heart by his death. He decisively went to the cross, taking on the sin of his sheep and suffering in their place, never complaining or fussing, always loving. And he then rose again on the third day, revealed himself as the Savior to his sinful disciples, and ascended back to heaven.