I was deeply saddened this past week to hear of the suicide of a Pastor who was associated with a church planting network with whom I am very familiar, and follow somewhat closely. I have been troubled, and unable to get this tragedy out of my head since hearing of it. My heartfelt prayers go out to this family, and especially his wife and children. I can’t begin to fathom what they must be going through.
As I said, this has been really troubling to me, and I was speaking with someone very close to me about it. As we discussed it, this person made the comment, “I’ll bet he’s really wishing he didn’t do that now.” The implication here was that this Pastor was in hell. I’ve often heard, and I believe it’s a misconception that many people have, that if you commit suicide, you automatically end up in hell. I tried to explain to this person that, I didn’t believe suicide does automatically send you to hell. They simply said, “Well, I think it does.” When asked for a theological reasoning behind their answer, they didn’t have one…it’s just what they’ve always been told, and the belief they’ve always held. I used to believe this also, for the same reasons…it’s just what I’ve always been told.
As I’ve studied the Bible more though, I’ve come to the conclusion that, I don’t believe this to be true. First of all, there is the case of Samson who we know killed himself along with many Philistines in Judges 16, yet is mentioned in Hebrews 11 as one of the models of faith. I believe even more though we need to look to the overwhelming teaching of Scripture which is; that if you are in Christ, and I have no reason to doubt that this Pastor was, then you can be assured of your salvation. If you are in Christ, all of your sins past, present, and future are forgiven. (Acts 10:43, Colossians 1:14) I believe this is especially pointed to also in Psalm 103:10-14. Romans 7 and Hebrews 10:14 also certainly give us a picture of the “already-not yet” aspect of salvation.
I think people have arrived at this conclusion because they have this idea that you have to confess every single sin, in order to be forgiven of every sin. But that just isn’t the case. Can you imagine trying to remember every sin you commit throughout the day? What about the sins you commit without even thinking about it? Following this faulty logic, none of us would or could receive forgiveness for all of our sins, not only that, our salvation would become dependent on a work, which again the Bible tells us is not the case. We are to confess our sins, as soon as we are reminded of them, or see that we have sinned, but none of us are so perfect that we will remember each and every one of our sins, and confess them to our Lord. We are all sinners and must confess that to Christ on a regular basis, and repent of the sins we see in our lives. But unfortunately all of our sins won’t be clear to us.
Furthermore, as far as I can tell, the Bible only speaks of one unpardonable, one unforgivable sin. What is it? Jesus tells us Himself in Mark 3:22-30 & Matthew 12:31-32. The only sin Jesus tells us we cannot be forgiven of is blaspheming, or speaking against the Holy Spirit. I believe what Jesus is speaking of here in these verses is the rejection of the Holy Spirit’s call to salvation, ultimately denying who Christ is, and denying Him as Savior. If we deny Christ as Savior, then we cannot be forgiven of that sin, or any sins for that matter. Once we do confess Christ as Savior however, then all of our sins past, present, and future can and will be forgiven as I talked about earlier. (Also see Acts 2:21, Romans 10:13)
So am I saying it’s okay to commit suicide? NO! NEVER!
Our bodies are the temple of God. (1 Corinthians 6:19) There is no situation so bad, so tragic, that it should make us want to harm ourselves knowing that our bodies belong to God. There is no situation so lacking in hope that we ought not put our faith, hope, and trust in Christ to redeem that situation. That being said, all of us are prone to act irrationally at times. I know I myself have done more than one stupid thing in an act of anger or distress. This man’s actions just happened to have greater consequences than the things I’ve done. Yet my actions were sins, just as this act of his was. I would like to think if I were in the situation he was, I would act differently, do things differently, if not for my own sake, but for the sake of my wife and children. As I’ve said, I can’t even imagine what they are going through. But until we walk in someone else’s shoes, we can’t truly know what we would do, or how we would respond.
I do think though, there is some truth in what this person I was speaking to said. I do think as this Pastor was giving an account to God, he did mourn for what he did. The Bible tells us that we all must give an account for the things we do. (Hebrews 4:13, Romans 14:12, and especially 2 Corinthians 5:10) So while I do believe we are forgiven for all our sins as believers, and won’t have to suffer hell because of them, we all will give an account, and there will be consequences for all of our actions.
Again, as I stated earlier, my heartfelt prayers go out to this family for what they are going through. I can’t begin to imagine. What I do know though, is that we have a God who can and will redeem any situation, and will glorify Himself through it. I’m sure it’s hard for them to see that now, heck it’s hard for me to see how He will do it even as distant as I am from the situation. Still I know it’s true, and I pray that perhaps somehow, they will be able to cling to this fact in the midst of their pain. God help them…