Thursday, June 9, 2011

Christians Who Commit Suicide: Is There Any Hope?

A friend of mine recently committed suicide. He was a believer. Our church has been praying for his family and reeling with the news of this tragedy. Some have asked questions about Christians committing suicide, and no doubt many of us still have questions about this delicate and mysterious matter. I don't claim to have all the answers to every nuance of situations like this. What is going on in a person’s mind, heart and soul in their final moments is only known by them and God. Some things are a mystery. But God has chosen to reveal some things to us!

One of the things that has been revealed to us is the gospel. Just how good a gospel is it? Just how far does grace go? Just which sins does Christ's blood cover? Is suicide, as many believe, always a one-way ticket to hell? Is suicide always a sign that the person never had true faith, and is showing by their fruit that they were not in Christ?

Suicide Is A Sin
Let me start by saying that suicide is a sin. God commands us not to murder, and this would include murdering ourselves. Additionally, Christians have been called to endure to the end; to persevere through all the stresses and problems and persecutions and trials of this life with faith that clings to Christ and overcomes through him. So suicide would be a lack of faith, even if temporary. It shows a lack of hope in God and trust that he will work in us through the hard times for our good and his glory. Suicide is clearly a sin.

Suicide Could Show The Person Was Not A True Believer
I would also venture to say that suicide is probably a good sign of no saving faith – fruit that demonstrates that the person never was a true believer. That is, in many cases of suicide it most likely reveals the absence of saving faith.

Yet There Is Hope
However, with all that being said, I do not believe that we can biblically say that suicide always proves that the person was not a true believer. We believe that the Scriptures teach that our salvation is by grace through faith, not of our works (Ephesians 2:8-9). Salvation was not secured by us, but by God in Christ. Our salvation started with God in eternity past as he foreknew us, elected (chose) us in Christ and predestined us to be conformed to the image of Christ (Ephesians 1:4, 11; Romans 8:28-30).

Not only did God choose us, but he sent Christ to redeem us. Jesus finished the work, securing eternal redemption for all of God’s people (Hebrews 9:12).

Not only did Christ fully atone for all of God’s people, but God works out salvation for his people in our lives. He is faithful to finish the work he begins (Philippians 1:6). By the work of the Spirit, God brings his people to life, granting us repentance and faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5; Acts 11:18; Philippians 1:29). As his redeemed people come to him in repentance and faith, God forgives all our sins and declares us righteous in Christ, so that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 5:1-2; 8:1). Further, God holds his people securely and will not let us go (John 10:28-29). Nothing can separate God’s people from his love in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39)!

Do you see the biblical emphasis on our security being in God rather than left up to us? The biblical gospel means that our salvation is secure in Christ, not maintained by our performance and works.

True Christians Do Not Live In Sin, But Still Stumble In Sin
Those who have experienced this salvation will produce good fruit and will not continue in a pattern of sin (Matthew 7:17; 1 John 3:9). But this does not mean that the Christian will not stumble and sin, or be overtaken by a temptation and commit a sin (1 John 1:8; Galatians 6:1). We know that believers still stumble into sin, yet Christ holds us, his blood covers us and speaks on our behalf.

Even Suicide?
Yet suicide seems different because there is no time to repent after it is committed. But this is not exclusive to suicide. What about someone who commits any sin and then dies before he can repent? Either Christ’s blood covers us or it does not! Clearly we have hope that Christ has borne all our sins, past, present and future, and we are secure in him by grace through faith! We must walk in repentance and faith, maintaining a close relationship with our Father, but not to keep ourselves saved. Christ holds us even if we die before we can repent of individual sins.

It is true that suicide seems to reveal a lack of faith in Christ. But all sin reveals a temporary lack of faith. It is possible that a believer could find himself overtaken by a state of mind or emotion, or even mental sickness, that could produce a lapse of judgment and lead to the sin of suicide. This does not necessarily reveal a lifestyle of sin that proves the person was not a true believer. I myself have certainly been caught in temptation, found myself not thinking straight, and made a poor decision to sin before. So I am truly grateful that my salvation rests securely in Christ and not in my performance.

John Piper also reminds us that Jesus spoke about the unforgivable sin, and he didn’t mention suicide on that short list (Here is the transcript of Piper’s message at the funeral of a church member who committed suicide).

God Knows
I can’t know the condition of someone’s heart and mind as they are caught in sin and commit suicide. I have to leave that to God and trust him to judge rightly. God knows those who are his (2 Timothy 2:19).

May God use tragedies for his glory. May he draw people to himself through these painful situations. Let us be reminded of our own weakness when we see others fall into sin, but let us also be reminded of the One who has conquered death and liberated us from our sins! The gospel gives us hope! Let our hope rest in Jesus and his work on the cross, not in our works and effort. The gospel truly is amazing, glorious, good news!

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