A gracEmail reader in Florida writes, “I’ve heard it said that a genuine Christian would never commit suicide and that it is a sin which God does not forgive. Any thoughts?”
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Scripture tells us that God is the author of life, that each human life is precious, and that humans are not to kill each other in anger, for vengeance or for other personal reasons. Although I know of no biblical passage which says that suicide is a sin, it is undoubtedly a horrible tragedy and a source of horrendous grief to God. In the Bible, the unforgivable sin is not suicide but the persistent, intentional rejection of God’s grace. The medieval Roman Catholic Church, which limited divine grace to its own sacraments, concluded that a suicide victim (who obviously could not afterward receive Penance from the priest) was beyond God’s reach to help.
I have known several Christians who took their own lives. I think of Doris, a desperately lonely single woman living in a place which valued her primarily as potential wife. As her hopes of finding a life companion flickered and died, so, apparently did her very will to live. I believe she truly trusted Christ for salvation, although sadly her religious teaching had not introduced her to the Risen Lord as intimate friend. But, although she did not enjoy his solace in life, that Friend did not desert her in death.
I remember the church treasurer who, accused of prolonged embezzlement of church funds, ended the inquiry with a gun turned on himself. I cannot fathom the inner demons Clinton faced, or imagine the depths of despair to which he sank in his losing struggles against them. His church knew much of God’s judgment against sinners, but had little practice in forgiveness and restoration. That did not excuse his wrong-doing, if he was indeed guilty, but he will answer to a God who sees in the deepest recesses of the soul what no mortal ever beholds. I recall my brilliant friend George, a retired engineer who writhed in Job-like agony for months with a neurological disease until, in desperation, he used a bullet to stop the pain. I believe that George died with a prayer on his lips and that he now sleeps safely in Jesus.
The Savior, who came seeking lost sinners whose place he would take on the Cross, understands most fully the agonizing darkness which falls when God truly turns his face. And he is able to receive those who, mistakenly thinking themselves in such a darkness, reach out to the One they cannot see as they cast themselves into the abyss. Let us commit ourselves afresh to sharing the light and hope of Jesus Christ, which alone provides purpose for living and which gives meaning to daily life!