Recent events have brought this question to the forefront again. It’s a question that, as a pastor, I was asked pretty frequently. The fact that this question is on the minds of our people should let all of us – pastors, concerned members, church leaders – know that it needs to be addressed and that a clear answer is needed.
I’m going to give an answer that I feel strongly about. But it’s not enough to feel strongly about it, it has to be connected to Scripture.
Let me start with this – I know that many people feel that Christians who commit suicide do end up eternally punished by God. Without mentioning denominations or religions, they have a reason they feel that way. Their arguments are their arguments. It usually has something to do with the person committing a very serious sin without repentance or confession or chance at confession.
The problem is that there is no direct reference to suicide and the fate of Christians who commit it.
So, here’s my humble position. It comes to you from a man who believes in Sovereign grace, a man who was forgiven by God of adultery, a man who was rescued by God from the depths of sin and understands what mercy and grace are.
I also want to say that this topic should always be approached with love and gentleness. Listen, if you are of the belief that Christians who commit suicide spend eternity separated from God and someone who just lost a loved one to suicide asks you about it – do us all a favor and just show some love, grace and common sense. I’m not telling you to tell them what they want to hear. But there is grace to be had in a kind response of, “We can always trust God to do what is right.” And that answer includes, “Even when my theology is wrong.”
I like to anchor my argument in John 10:27-30, where Jesus is speaking of His followers: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
When we belong to Christ, we are His. He takes us into His hand, we do not perish and we also belong in the hand of the Father. I’m not even going to address those who want to say, “Does that mean we can sin however much we want after we are saved?” No. Of course not.
There are Christians who sin. I did. I fell. There are a lot of Christians who sin but God does not give up on us. He didn’t give up on the believers in Scripture who fell. The heroes we find in the Old and New Testament who sinned were covered by Christ. God picks us up. He loves us in spite of our sin.
I suppose the opposing argument is, “If we can’t repent, then we die in our sins.” No dice on that one, friend. I suppose if while I was living in adultery without repentance, I would have died in my sin. I would guess that most of us could be caught in some form of sin during the day and that it is unrepentant.
Christ died to justify us. He stood in our place. For all of our sin. Oh, but not for suicide, right? Not for an unconfessed sin we had at the moment of our death. I don’t accept that.
He died so that we didn’t have to live under such judgment. We are to live a holy life, absolutely. But if suicide is the one thing that can do us in, even after we are secure in Christ, then why did He die? What was the cross for? Did He die for our sin or not?
Yes, He covered the sins of Christians once and for all.
It is a tragic thing that some believers get to a point, whether because of depression, mental illness, or circumstance, that they feel suicide is the only way out. But it is not the end of their life.
If you know someone who is suffering, thinking about suicide, contemplating it, giving away their possessions, showing strange or seriously depressive behavior, chase after them. Get them help. Ask for help. Prayer is awesome. Professional help and asking others for intervention is tremendous and necessary.
One quick note about Judas – I agree with the majority of commentators that he never was a true follower of Christ. He never bought into Jesus as Messiah and he was the betrayer. Therefore, his demise and ultimate separation is not evidence for everyone who commits suicide.