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June 2023

A true story about two very different men of faith. One was a Jewish rabbi, Albert Lewis, who grew up in the Jewish faith, and served as rabbi in the same synagogue from the time he became a rabbi, to the day of his death.   The other man, Henry Covington, was neglected as a child, lived a life of crime, yet ultimately sought forgiveness and became a Christian pastor to the homeless.

I’m struggling to find the words to express accurately how I feel about this book.  There are things about it that I love:

  • Albom honestly writes about his own faith, how it developed as a child, how it changed as he became an adult, and how he grew through his relationship with the rabbi and the pastor.  Albom’s feelings at the beginning of the book mirror that of many, no matter what their faith.  He describes it this way:

…by the time I graduated and went out into the world, I was as well versed in my religion [Judaism] as any secular man I knew.  And then?  And then I pretty much walked away from it.  It wasn’t revolt.  It wasn’t some tragic loss of faith.  It was, if I’m being honest, apathy.  A lack of need…I didn’t need to ask God for much, and I figured, as long as I wasn’t hurting anyone, God wasn’t asking much of me either.  We had forged a sort of “you go your way, I’ll go mine” arrangement, at least in my mind.                                                                                                                       pp.12-13

  • Albom writes about 2 men who are worthy of being written about.  Today, so many books are written about people who have done absolutely nothing with their lives except for becoming famous.  Rabbi Lewis and Pastor Henry were and are good men who have helped countless people in their own unique ways.  It’s refreshing to read about real people doing real good, not for fame or glory, but simply because it’s the right thing to do.
  • The book makes you think:  What are you doing with your life?  What is really important?  Where will you go when you die?  What do you think about people of different faiths?  How do you treat them?  Do you have hope in the present?  In the future?

While there are many positive things about Albom’s book, I can’t say that I loved it.  In spite of all the good things that Albom learned from the pastor and the rabbi, and in spite of all the personal growth that Albom shows, he didn’t acknowledge the only thing you really need to know about God.  Pastor Henry shared it with him, but somehow, Albom doesn’t see it.  At one point, Henry is talking about his past life and the sins he committed.  Henry says:

You can’t work your way into heaven.  Anytime you try and justify yourself with works, you disqualify yourself with works.  What I do here, every day, for the rest of my life, is only my way of saying, “Lord, regardless of what eternity holds for me, let me give something back to you.  I know it don’t even no scorecard.  But let me make something of my life before I go…And then, Lord, I’m at your mercy.”

pp. 220-221

Salvation is not earned, and it cannot be obtained through good works.  It is a gift from a merciful God, paid for through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. (Romans 10:9)  I’m going to say something that is not politically correct at all, but it is what I believe, based on the Bible:  Good people do not go to heaven.  People who believe in Jesus as their Savior go to heaven.

The ending of the book was just sad for me, and not because it ended with a funeral.  It was sad because I know that so many people will come away from reading this book more lost than ever.  They will have read a hopeful, inspirational story about two men, they will have learned about living a good life, about talking to God, about treating others with respect, about respecting traditions, and about thinking about someone besides themselves.  As wonderful as all of that seems, our righteous acts are like filthy rags before God.  Only Jesus can save.