Suicidal Thoughts

On Thursday night I was sitting in a living room with a group of young people who were mourning the suicidal death of their good friend. It was hard to see their emotions of guilt and hear their questions of “why?” and “where is he?” (Interpretation: “Is he in hell?” Is suicide the unpardonable sin?”)…But I had more questions than answers for them.

Upon preparing to conduct Monday’s funeral I was told that these are the opportunities where it is a privilege to be a pastor. For some reason, I doesn’t feel like a privilege, but I think I’ll know what it means in the months to come.

So the horrific topic of suicide is on my mind tonight.

Many people are suffering in our world today. Though surrounded by thousands, most are all alone. They are going through a pain, a crises, or an emptiness that they can no longer bear. They are tired, frustrated, angry, or just void of all life.

They want to escape. Thinking they want a quick fix to someplace better, they move to end their existence here on earth. Or thinking that there is nothing outside of this world, they realize that they rather experience nothing, than the horrible something that they are going through.

I have talked to people who are suicidal. I have had to physically stop a few. I know I have had thoughts of killing myself. I am sure some reading this post have either had the thought quickly run through their minds or have seriously contemplated this decision . . . maybe even some acting on it.

And so some of the big theological questions on the subject of suicide follow: Is suicide a sin? Can you commit suicide and still go to heaven? What if you are mentally ill and commit suicide? Can suicide be a good thing?

When we look at scripture we find several examples where suicide appears to have taken place. Here are some more of the famous characters in the Bible that committed suicide:

The King of Israel, critically injured in battle and at the hands of his enemies Saul ask his armor-bearer (1 Samuel 31:4-5)

Saul apparently committed suicide to avoid dishonor and suffering at the hands of the Philistines. He is reward by the Israelites with a war hero’s burial.

So was this wrong? Could this even be considered a “real” suicide, like we see today?

Another difficult example would be found with one of the judges of Israel, Sampson, chained to the pillars of a coliseum filled with God’s enemies asks God grant him power to kill himself and his enemies (Judges 16:30)

Again, was this really wrong in him killing himself for the sake of killing off an enemy of God?

These are two fairly unique circumstances giving us maybe more questions than answers. But they really don’t help us answer the question as to whether suicide is ultimately and morally right or wrong.

An example of suicide that probably best models many of today’s suicides would be illustrated best by Judas (Matthew 27:3-5)

A person in the midst of a trial, great pain, and distress to the point of not being able to take it anymore and ending their existence.

Is this wrong?

Well maybe we should ask, “Is playing God wrong?”

When we look at the first sin by the human race, “The fall of Adam and Eve,” it circled around their desire to try to take God’s role into their own hands . . . to be like God (Genesis 3:2-5)

And so when we go and remove our existence from earth, in many ways we are being like God. We are saying, “It is my time and this is my body.”

In a self-ruling way, many people do say, “We’ll its my body and I can do whatever I want with it.”

But here is the thing that we forget in many ways, not just with the issues of suicide . . . It is not our body. It is God’s. And this is a big error we make in our thinking.

Paul speaks to this issue in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

We play God, forgetting that our bodies are his, and that this life in general is a gift, one not to be taken for granted:

The Apostle Paul was reminding some people in Athens about life being a gift from God in Acts 17:25.

In many ways I guess we can come to the ultimate conclusion of whether suicide is wrong or not, by seeing it simply as murder of self. As 1st of the 10 commandments states: “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13)

And so ultimately we can quickly say that “YES,” suicide is wrong because it is us taking on the role of God, abusing the gift of life given to us, and ultimately committing the sin of murder.

And whether the suicide was a clear and conscious decision or whether is was a person who had lost their mind, we can still say that the act of suicide is not a right act, but a wrong act.

If a person goes and commits a normal murder though was insane, we still don’t say that murder was then good. Sure the murder was wrong, but maybe the consequences are different for the person who was insane at the time.

So what are the consequences for someone who kills their self?

Much of our society and media today project suicide as the one “unforgivable sins.”

Is suicide unforgivable?

Well, first let’s find out why there is this position that suicide is an unforgivable sin.

Within our culture, this notion that suicide is unforgivable is due to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

To summarize, the Roman Catholic Church has divided sins into two categories, the more serious termed “mortal sins.” Since suicide is on the same level of murder, this is seen as a “mortal sin.”

All mortal sins are forgivable, but only after taking certain steps such as confession and forgiveness offered by a priest. But since these steps can’t be taken when one commits suicide, it is looked upon as the unforgivable or unpardonable sin.

Different than Roman Catholics, I see scripture saying, “Sin as sin”, all equal when it comes to every sin (big or small) violating our relationship with God. Sure, there are greater consequences or greater displeasure by God for some sins over others, but in the aspect of guilt and the deserving of eternal punishment, sin is sin.

Scripture also shows us that Jesus alone forgives our sins and the acceptance his act on the cross pays for all of our sins, whether we have the opportunity to ask for forgiveness from a priest or not.

No sin is too great for God to forgive.

When we look a Corinth church and their sins, we find that grace and forgiveness is still granted (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

The same is true with suicide. With Christ, anything is forgivable. With Christ, suicide is not unforgivable, unpardonable, or an automatic bid into hell.

But then again…

Suicide is an unpardonable sin. As a matter of fact every sin is unpardonable . . . without Christ. A holy God cannot remain in the presence of sin. And we have it, separating us from a relationship with God.

The only way we can be pardoned for our sins and reconnect to the presence of God is through Christ and the acceptance of his sacrifice on the cross and his payment for what he have done wrong.

So in some ways we all need to commit suicide on a different level. We all need to commit an inner suicide that forces us to die to self, laying our pride and self-centeredness aside, and place Christ at the center.

We are called to surrender. We are called to “die to self.”

As Paul says in Colossians, “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature” (3:5).

The first step of this inner-suicide is the acceptance in Christ. But it is a continual process of working to kill off our own will and incorporate more of God’s desires.

Again, it is not our body, but his. This life is not a happenstance but a gift, with a purpose and mission through Christ.

No matter how bad it gets, we trust in his control, power, and the providing us a way out.

Suicide is horrible. It is a direct violation against what God has designed. But it is not so horrible that God would never forgive if Christ lives in us.

Romans tells us, “neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39).

We rest assured in God’s grace and his word on this issue. We help those who are hurting or we seek help for ourselves if needed. And ultimately we take steps each day to kill what is of our will and of our sin nature, reflecting more of his goodness, eternal perspective on life & trials, and live his mission.


~ by Dave Smith on June 21, 2008.

2 Responses to “Suicidal Thoughts”

  1. wow…extremely well thought out, dave.

    by the way, the first half, where you argue that suicide is wrong, would seem to be a rather strong argument for pacifism in general.

  2. Well maybe we should ask, “Is playing God wrong?”.

    Not much to add to that, I’d say.

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