31 Jul “5 People in Heaven” by Stephen Hutchins
Well, I finally did it. I read “The Five People You Meet In Heaven” by Mitch Albom. My nephew had given it to me almost a year ago thinking I’d enjoy it, and I graciously received it, giving my sincere promise to read it. It’s been hard though. Fiction isn’t my thing. My reading interests tend strongly towards reality. My literary preference is non-fiction with a strong gravitational pull towards the biographical and historical. I had heard of the book previously. After all, it has sold over 7 million copies. But it was fiction and, furthermore, if the title was any indication, it was certain to be filled with many pop-religious ideas and unbiblical themes. I placed it on my bedside table to read but these biases and my other reading priorities kept it from ever reaching the top of my agenda. Until recently.
I’ve been increasingly haunted by my unkept promise as month after month slipped by. I also began to look at the prospect of reading it not as a drudgery but as a golden opportunity to use it as a springboard to engage my nephew, and perhaps others who are familiar with the book, in discussions about spiritual things. This latter point became my primary motivation and I proceeded to dive into it, though “dive” isn’t the best word to describe reading a book that’s diminutive in size, less than 200 pages, filled with generous dialogue, and formatted like a school term paper whose choice of font size and margins could only be viewed as padding to reach the requisite page total. I read it in a day during a recent vacation.
It wasn’t the slog that I expected though. I actually enjoyed it. Yes, there were several ideas expressed that were definitely outside the boundaries of Christian orthodoxy. But its over-arching message was a Biblical one, namely, that our lives matter and the contact that we have with others leaves an indelible mark on them—for good or otherwise.
Many have speculated that when we get to heaven we may be surprised to discover saints there claiming to be part of our spiritual progeny who knew us in some major or minor capacity but whose paths diverged from ours before they trusted in the Savior. One dramatic Biblical example of this is the Apostle Paul’s midwifing of Stephen’s martyrdom. There are many awkward moments recorded in scripture. Stephen’s welcoming of Paul into glory is not one of them.
In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians (3:2-3), he refers to Christians as “letter[s] of Christ,” “read by all men.” If we identify with Christ, that’s you and me. We would do well to take inventory of our lives as to what message the people in our lives are reading. It also may be helpful to take account of what the people in your life are reading in the literal sense. It may result in fruitful conversations about spiritual things leading to eternal life. To that end, I’m looking forward to getting together with my nephew to talk about the 5 people we meet in heaven! And I’m excited about where that talk may take us.