Too Late to Repent?- Confronting the Practical Bad Theology on Suicide

Today I want to deal with something that is a little away from the norm for me, but which I think is a tremendously important issue, particularly among teenagers and young adults. It is also an important issue for me in both the psychological history of my life as well as in the formation of my beliefs. This is the issue of suicide. What is the proper Christian perspective of suicide? or more importantly, What is God’s reaction to suicide?

To begin with, we should further refine this question into the frame of suicide of a professing believer. It is of no use for us to separate suicide from any other of a lifetime of sins in the heart of those outside of the family of God. All of that persons sins will be held against their soul and are worthy of condemnation, so the impact of suicide upon their eternal destiny is practically of no account. Unless someone has confessed with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believed in their heart that God raised him from the dead, the theological question of suicide makes no difference. If this is where you are I ask that you please honestly evaluate your standing before God and contact me or someone in a church in your area to discuss this issue.

That said, let’s set the stage. A person who at some previous point confessed their sin and followed the Lord Jesus Christ in faith decides that they want to commit suicide, attempts to commit suicide, and is successful in their attempt. What happens now?

Well, what can we say of biblical accounts? There is Judas (Matthew 27.3-5), but he should be omitted because it is almost assured that he was not a believer. Then we have Saul (1 Samuel 31.4), but again I think one may question his standing with God prior to the act. Of the 6 or so suicides mentioned in Scripture, I believe that there is only one committed by a man who we could undoubtedly say was a believer, that being Samson (Judges 16.25-30). The question with Samson however is was what he did actually suicide, at least in the typical sense? I don’t personally believe so. Therefore, it appears to me that if we are truly trying to find anecdotal answers to the case in question we will have no luck. Thus, we must look for other texts to develop our answer.

Augustine and the Westminster Shorter Catechism both link suicide with a failure to uphold the sixth commandment, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20.13). The Shorter Catechism justifies this by looking to Ephesians 5.28-29, “In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church.” I would agree with all of this. I think when we look at the nature of suicide our natural conclusion must be that it is actually a form of homicide, which is clearly laid out as sinful in the Scriptures.

If this is the case, then what does that mean to a believer who commits suicide? It means that suicide is no different than any other sin! And thus, in as much as Christ died for your lustful thoughts and moments of greed or pride, he also died for the taking of your own life.

This is so important and is why my heart is in this the way it is. In my own life there was a time that I contemplated suicide. I had become a believer a couple of years earlier, but there arose a point in my life where I saw everything crumbling around me and I was panicking. To really add to the fire, I had some of Job’s friends in my life who kept telling me that if I were to commit suicide that that would estrange me from God, that suicide is an unpardonable sin. Now, thankfully I was lifted out of this depression, and with my head cleared I began investigating the claims of those around me. If suicide were really unpardonable then that has severe consequences on the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice as well as my responsibility in sealing my own salvation, things of which the biblical evidence just doesn’t support.

What is the proper Christian perspective on suicide? What is God’s reaction to it? As we have seen, first and foremost, God hates suicide. It is a violation of his sixth commandment and a sin punishable by hell. However, if the person is a believer, it is a sin just like any other which has been covered by the atoning work of Christ on the cross. For the believer, they are assured by Romans 8.38-39 that “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Suicide is not God’s plan, but ultimately it will also not remove him from us if we have been sealed by the Holy Spirit as children of God.

Several years after my experience I was able to be on the other side of the conversation, speaking with a believer who was contemplating suicide. Armed with a better understanding of this, I was able to testify about a God who desired them not to take their own life yet who was powerful enough to forgive them in any failure. This may seem like it encourages suicide, but speaking from experience, for someone who feels that they need to take their own life, God seems awfully distant and the most comforting thing is to know that he is there, that he is a mighty God who loves them and whose hand they cannot be plucked out of. Never underestimate the power of a big God.

If you are interested in helping teens and young adults who struggle with depression and thoughts of suicide, please check out the resources at To Write Love on Her Arms and Hopeline. This is an important issue and one that is more prevalent than many will admit. Please help people not to suffer in silence anymore.

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