The Sin of Suicide

The sin of suicide
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:

  • God is loveSome 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.

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4 Responses

  1. Tumi Letoka

    Dr. Pepper, we need to be very careful concerning what we say in regard to issues that have to do with eternity, considering there is no chance of repentance beyond the grave. I don’t exactly understand why you would not tell someone they will face eternity in hell for sucide, perhaps it is because you do not believe that, or you would not want to across harsh. But Dr Pepper, we have cheapened what it takes to get to heaven with cheap grace. The Lord said that ONLY those who DO the will of the Father are going to make it. The Lord also said only a few FIND the narrow way. The finding has connotations of searching out in the original. Immediately after the “saved by grace” verse we face the fact that we have been saved that way in order to walk in the good works that have been preordained. What if one fails to walk in those good works? As for divorce, it may perhaps be understandable in certain situations, but not remarriage if the spouse is still alive. Most people are going to be shocked upon death. Scripture even points out over and over that we must be found BLAMELESS and WITHOUT SPOT at the coming of the Lord. Contrary to popular opinion, the Lord is not going to comprise the “without spot” and “blameless” passages.

    • Christopher Peppler

      Dear Tumi. Thank you for taking the trouble to comment. You raise several points, most of which I believe to be misguided, but arguing each one would be unproductive in this forum. Instead, I want to suggest that you read some carefully selected texts and ponder on them prayerfully. I realise that we all come to the scriptures wearing spiritual ‘spectacles’ of some kind (reformed, pentecostal, puritan etc.) but I earnestly urge you to read the scriptures through ‘Jesus spectacles’. He is the full manifestation (COL 2:9) of the triune God, so we must surely take His teachings as the primary basis for what we believe. The ‘narrow way’ to which you refer is not the way of law and works, but Jesus himself (JN 14:6 also read MTT 7:13-14). The texts I suggest you read are:
      1. MTT 5:21-30 where Jesus teaches on the true meaning and purpose of the Law by dealing with the 6th and 7th commandments.
      2. MTT 7:1-5 concerning not judging others.
      3. GAL 1:12 where Paul claims that he received his doctrine directly from Jesus.
      4. GAL 2:21 Righteousness by grace and not by law (Actually, read the whole letter to the Galatians)
      Tumi, forgive my sense of humour, but I was told the following story many years ago that I think is appropriate. ‘A man died and went to heaven. He was surprised and amazed when he saw many people there who he had not expected to see in heaven. However, what puzzled him most was the look of surprise on their faces when they caught sight of him’.

  2. Christopher Peppler

    I welcome comments and almost always publish them, even when they express views contrary to my own. However,Tumi has responded to my response to her comment with a lecture on a particular perspective on ‘holy living’, and harping on the word ‘puritan’ that I used, among others, when I observed that we all wear spiritual spectacles of some sort. I am not publishing the rather lengthy comment because (a) it is argumentative and (b) it is off the topic, which is ‘suicide’. However, this is an opportunity for me to set out the rules of the TITW blog for the benefit of all:
    1. I welcome comments and interactions, even when they disagree with what I have written, but
    2. They must directly concern the subject matter of the post and interact in a respectful and open manner, and
    3. They must be interactions and not arguments. If anyone wishes to promote their own brand of doctrine then let them start their own blog and write articles to their hearts’ content. However, they may not hijack the TITW blog to promote their own sectarian views.
    Grace to all 🙂

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