Too often, the church shoots the wounded. Suicide is one subject that desperately needs wisdom. Too often I hear people say those who commit suicide will go to Hell.
It stems from the idea that if the last act of our life is murdering ourself, or being selfish, then we won’t have an opportunity to repent and thus be forgiven for that sin. This would only make us as good as our last repentance. It also assumes that God’s forgiveness doesn’t cover all sins, only past sins. Not true (Jeremiah 31:33).
Other believe if we don’t have enough faith to trust God during our most difficult moments, then we probably don’t have the kind of faith for salvation. Really?
It’s all assumption! And it’s really jacked up!
This kind of belief is harmful and stems from fundamentalism. Fundies believe that every divorce is a sin, or that gay people cannot be Christians, or that we have to give 10% of our money to a local church. It’s all culturally contrived but masquerades as God’s voice.
Fundamentalism’s influence in Christianity only makes suicides that much worse. When this happens, the church is essentially oppressing the poor.
Some people are rich in money, in friends, in good health, in mental constitution, and in opportunity. Others are poor. They lack good health, they are plagued with negative dispositions, weakness of mind and faith, and so even the smallest advancements are infinitely more challenging. God knows their struggle. It was his design.
Biblically speaking, people are not saved nor judged as the church likes to teach. God’s standard is far more pure. His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:09), and he looks upon the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). God also knows precisely the circumstances, environment and issues that will be brought before each person. So while people like to judge each other based upon where they end up, God judges us according to where we started. How many suicides are the result of a person who grew up under fundamentalism and could not find the love nor liberation to live as they truly are?
Fundamentalism makes salvation and suicide mutually exclusive. Islamic fundamentalism makes them coextensive. Is the solution to pray some grade school prayer and invite Jesus into our heart. Who is to say that God has not been perfectly glorified in the life of a person who takes their life? Saul fell on his own sword (1 Samuel 31:) and so did many others in scripture, are we to believe that God is somehow surprised by these deaths?
Of course I’m not advocating for suicide as a viable option for any person. I pray each of us successfully displaces our self destructive thoughts. Suicide is the ultimate blossom on the seed of self pity and confusion that resides within all of us. I am however warning against any kind of position paper or doctrine that doesn’t employ wisdom nor try to discern the unique situations of each person.
The truth is that God knows. God sees. God understands. His mercy transcends the rules of man. His grace is sufficient for those who are suffering (2 Corinthians 12:19) The gospel story is that of a son who laid down his own life because no one could take it (John 10:17-18). This sacrifice is in a cosmic sense a self slaughter. He gets our struggle (Hebrews 4:15). It’s purposeful. Our suffering is a crucible that purifies us (Proverbs 1:3). Killing the self (pride) so that the true self (soul) can live is the essence of the Christian faith and all mature religions. It’s not hard to see why there is confusion.
We don’t all see life the same way? Some of us may not be able to see suffering as temporary. Some may not have the mental or emotional strength to go on? The inspiration that brings a survivor through dark days may be absent for some. Some have bodies so riddled with pain and disease that it’s easier to fear life than death? Shall we insist there is no context whatsoever where suicide is understandable?
The truth is we all contemplate death. We all think about our own mortality, yet look how many come through that. Look how many find life so amazing despite terrible circumstances. Look how many would never change those terrible circumstances for all the gold in the world. It’s worth it to fight one more day. It’s worth it to seek for one more hour. God’s grace really is sufficient. None of us are really alone. We all share a common human existence, with common suffering and disorientation. We are all called to live out today as best we can taking the good and bad with it. No more, no less.
It’s in this clouded, confused, insecure, and painful life that God has elected to write himself into the human drama. A God like this must be very special. In fact, the Christ story is where God self-emptied into humanity (Philippians 2:7) to dwell and live as one of us. Religion tries to have us ascend to God, but here, God comes to us. A God this faithful, this caring, certainly has capacity and grace for those who commit suicide, and brings complete healing for those who are left behind.
His self-slaughter means we don’t have to. It also frees the survivors from looking back and wondering if they could have changed it.