Over one million people worldwide commit suicide every year, and for every one of those, there are another 25 people who attempted suicide but failed.
But surely, you say, this problem does not exist in the Christian community to anything like the same extent. Well, according to an article in Christianity Today ‘suicide occurs among Christians at essentially the same rate as non-Christians’.
As a retired Pastor, I just hate to acknowledge that suicide is a problem for Christians… but it is.
Just over a month ago I spent two days ministering to a beautiful young Christian woman who had attempted to take her life three times in as many weeks. This last Sunday a Christian man gave testimony in the church service of how Jesus had recently changed his life, and then
mentioned that just a couple of years ago he had tried to end it all . The reality is all around us and we dare not ignore it!
Some folk who believe in ‘the perseverance of the elect’ don’t believe that a Christian is not capable of committing suicide. So, if someone in their circle takes his own life, then he is deemed to have been ‘unsaved’ and his family and friends have to bear the pain of this judgement along with the agony of loss and guilt. I think that this sort of denial is singularly unhelpful, and actually very cruel.
The Roman Catholic church used to deny burial to those who took their own lives: They still hold that suicide is a mortal sin but have softened in how they deal with this tragedy. Some‘evangelicals’ are, I am sad to say, even more hard-line than 19th century Roman Catholics and label suicide as ‘a quick ticket to Hell’.
Is suicide offensive to God? Yes, I believe it is; it is a violation of His command not to murder (Exodus 20:13), and suicide is self-murder, and it is also a rejection of His gift of life. The violation of any of the Ten Commandments is surely offensive to God so why then is self-murder regarded as an irredeemable sin condemning the offender to Hell but, say, giving false testimony is not? The answer given by the ‘fast ticket to Hell’ brigade is that a person who commits suicide has no opportunity to repent and thus cannot be forgiven. But what then do Pauls’ words mean when he says; ‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 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 8:38-39)?
When I counsel a woman wanting to divorce her husband, I tell her that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) but that it is not the unforgivable sin and it will not consign her to Hell. Similarly, I would beseech someone contemplating suicide to NOT DO IT, and would certainly point out that it is offensive to God and devastating to loved ones… but I would NOT tell them that they will go to Hell if they act out their morbid wishes.
It is commonly said that suicide is the most selfish of sins because it leaves behind so much hurt and devastation in the lives of others, so why do people take their own lives? Here are some of the reasons I have encountered:
- Some Christians are so beset by demonic powers, and so unaware of the authority they have in Christ Jesus, that they succumb to the voices in their heads and act to end their lives.
- Others are brought so low by addictions and failures that they just cannot see a way to rise above the chaos they have created for themselves and others.
- Yet others have come to the end of their resources and cannot face another day of living with crushing pain, poverty, or guilt.They are not will not be able to see even a glimmer of the hope we have in Jesus Christ and find thus their lives unbearable.
- Some people even take their own lives because they truly believe at the time that it is the best solution to the problems confronting those they love most.
- In many cases, it is a combination of several of these factors, and in most instances, alcohol, drugs or deep chemical depression play a major role.
A person contemplating suicide needs our love, compassion, and practical help, not our condemnation and judgement.Those who were close to a person who has committed suicide need our support, not our theological opinions.
We need never compromise our belief or sugar-coat what we understand the Bible to teach BUT we surely need to represent Jesus in such circumstances and talk and act as we know He would.
Do you know why I regard the suicide of a believer as such a tragedy? It is because a Christian who ends their own life is cutting short the opportunity that only this life on earth can offer; the opportunity of coming to know Jesus, becoming like Him, and helping others to do likewise. It is also tragic because it leaves behind a legacy of guilt, confusion, and excruciating emotional pain, and it breaks God’s heart.