Romans 8: 37-39
37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In this message today I am approaching a topic that weighs on the hearts and minds of many people. In fact, during this Covid pandemic/lockdown suicides in our country have reached a pandemic state of its’ own. This particular message is the one ALL believers need to approach with reverence to God’s word, not with what they think or have been misled to believe but to follow the directions in the word.
Suicide has been said to be a permanent solution to a temporary problem. The name suicide comes from the Latin word “sui”, meaning “of oneself”, and –cida, meaning “to kill”. And statistics show us a wide range of people have contemplated and committed suicide. Over 25,000 Americans commit suicide each year. Over one million will try but only one out of fifteen will succeed. It is the tenth highest killer in the U.S. More will die by suicide than by murder. The model age for attempting suicide is 32 for men and 27 for women. The model age of succeeding is 50-54 for men and women. Men kill themselves twice as often as women, but women attempt suicide twice as often as men. There are over 5,000 suicides among teenagers each year. Some 10,000 college students will attempt suicide in a year. It is the second-highest cause of death among young people aged 15-24 surpassed only by accidents. Thirteen young adults each day consider life not worth living. That is twice as many as ten years ago and three times as many as twenty years ago. One report indicated that as many as 12 percent of all school-aged children will contemplate suicide at least once in their formative years. The bad news is these numbers were calculated before Covid 19 hit. Some studies indicate these numbers, in some demographics, have already doubled.
These startling statistics should give us pause, especially as we approach ministry in the church. Too often, the subject of suicide is something that is swept under the rug as a church addresses given needs. We like to talk about other ministry issues, but when suicide is present, the church is nowhere to be found, and experts outside of the church are left to mend the trail of broken hearts. However, I believe the church must recapture its ministry in this important area by addressing both what the Bible has to say and presenting tools to individuals who have suffered through this experience.
While the Bible itself does not include the actual word suicide, there are at least seven different times in Scripture where a person took his or her own life.
In Judges 9, the son of Gideon named Abimelech committed suicide. As a wicked ruler, he killed his seventy brothers in order to rule Israel, and during a revolt, a woman dropped a millstone on his head from a tower above. And before he was to die, Abimelech called his armor-bearer over and asked him to kill him because he didn’t want it said about him that a woman killed him.
In Judges 16, we remember the story of the powerful Samson, who fell in love with Delilah, and eventually allowed her and the Philistines to know that God granted him strength through his hair. After the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes, they chained him to the pillars as they held a great sacrifice to the god Dagon. In one last thrust of power granted by God, Samson pushed the pillars with all his might and collapsed the entire structure. Just before he died, Samson prayed to God, “Let me die with the Philistines!”
In 1 Samuel 31, Saul and his men were also fighting the Philistines, and when the effort grew fierce, the archers wounded him critically. Saul then asked his armor-bearer to draw his sword and run him through, but when his armor-bearer refused, Saul took his own sword and fell on it. And when his armor-bearer saw what had happened, in a state of hopelessness he too fell on his sword and died.
There are also the stories of Ahithophel and Zimri. In 2 Samuel 17:23 when Ahithophel realized his advice had not been followed as a respected prophet, and so he saddled his donkey, went to his hometown, put his house in order, and then hanged himself. In 1 Kings 16, Zimri murdered the king of Israel Elah and took his place. When the rest of Israel learned what had happened, they pursued him, and Zimri retreated to the king’s palace. There he set it on fire and remained inside.
Probably the most memorable to us of all the suicide accounts is the story of Judas, the disciple of Jesus who sold him out to the Roman authorities for his arrest. Matthew 27 tells us that when Judas saw that Jesus was condemned he was seized with remorse and went away and hung himself in his despair.
And so from those in Scripture who committed suicide, we are able to gain a window into some of the thoughts and expressions experienced by a person contemplating suicide. Feelings of hopelessness, despair, utter disappointment, pride, anger, and frustration can all be present.
But there are also other Scriptures that discuss the temptation of suicide. In fact, we learn through the Bible that even the very best of individuals were tempted to commit suicide. Take Jesus for example. During his struggle in the wilderness, the devil took Jesus to a high place and said “throw yourself down”. Some even speculate that since Jesus’ purpose in life was to eventually die for the sins of humanity, that act of his death on the cross could be considered the fulfillment of suicide since he allowed it to happen. Or how about Paul? When he wrote to the church in Philippi he shared, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know. I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but there is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” And so Paul also struggled with his longing to see Christ and expedite matters instead of completing his ministry through God’s timing.
But for those temptations or thoughts that occurred, the Bible states plainly that suicide is unacceptable. As Christians, our lives have been bought and paid for through the action of Jesus Christ. Paul shares in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” And so selfish behavior on our part is not an option. In fact, Romans 14:7 & 8 states, “For none of us lives to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.”
When a person commits suicide, it can be a very selfish, unthinking act—designed only to gratify themselves and cause remorse for those around them. In those circumstances, a person does not consider God or his plan for their life. But there are also other times when suicide is the result of a mental illness or incapacity of rational thought. Some people who go through the difficulty of bipolar disorders, or suffer from severe depression can be dangerously susceptible to suicide, especially if they are not receiving medical treatment or counseling.
And so there’s a wide range of thoughts, feelings, and actions that are present in suicide, which leads us to our question of if suicide is unforgivable. Of course, it’s important to point out at the very beginning that this is a slanted question. For many years, the conventional thought of many in the church is that suicide is an unforgivable sin. Augustine argued in the fifth century that suicide was a violation of the sixth commandment, “You shall not murder.” Later, Thomas Aquinas, being catholic and believing that confession of sin must be made prior to departure from one world to the next, taught that suicide was the most fatal of all sins because the victim could not repent of it. This is based on the fact that if a person dies while they are committing a sinful act, they are unable then to confess that sin and ask for forgiveness.
These are incredibly damaging and unbiblical views. Merely from our own personal standpoint, these ideas can be easily refuted. All I need to do is ask you two questions. First of all, do you sin? The obvious answer is yes. And secondly, have you confessed each and every sin that you have committed in your life. The obvious answer is no. There are sins we forget, there are even sins that we commit that we are not aware of. And so by that logic, each of us would still be susceptible to the eternal fires of hell and still unable to receive the grace given through Jesus Christ. But Scripture tells us that is not the case. John 5:24 informs us, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”
You see, the problem with the view that suicide is unforgivable is that it represents a gross misunderstanding of eternal security. We are saved by the grace of God, not by works. Ephesians 2:8 & 9 tells us, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” And we are told in Romans in our text for this morning that God has the ultimate ability to bridge the separation between us and him. Romans 8:38-39 says, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Those who want to say that suicide is unforgivable attempt to make suicide an elevated sin—a sin that is heightened to a status that even God himself cannot forgive. There are two problems with this. First, such a stance limits the conditions by which God can or cannot forgive someone—resulting in us essentially placing God in a box. Secondly, there is only one unpardonable sin that is ever mentioned within the Bible. In Matthew 12:31 Jesus says, “Every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.”
Sometimes in our desire to have things cut and dry, black and white, we run headlong into extremist views without allowing compassion and mercy to be present. And unfortunately, the church has frequently erred on the side of judgment rather than mercy. I’ve known churches that have refused to host a funeral service for someone who has committed suicide. In years past, people who committed suicide were not allowed to be buried in the church cemetery next to their family or brothers and sisters in Christ. In those instances, the church has lost critical opportunities to minister and has unfortunately turned people away from the loving presence of Jesus Christ.
But still, it is important to be incredibly cautious of our approach to this issue. Suicide cannot be condoned, and it should not be dealt with lightly. I dare to say that not every person who has committed suicide will go to heaven, and not every person who has committed suicide will go to hell. In essence, those decisions are not ours anyway, they are God’s.
It’s important that we minister effectively in such critical times, and if you are contemplating suicide, or know someone who is, there are some insights that can help you in those difficult times. First of all, don’t be afraid to call someone and ask for help. Don’t let pride get in the way. Much of Satan’s power to convince those who feel unloved and hopeless is found in his ability to keep them isolated and removed from those who can lift them up.
Secondly, ask Jesus Christ to give you new hope and to give your life meaning. His life indwells you, and His resources are constantly available in your most desperate moment. If you are not the one struggling with the issue of suicide but have a friend or someone in your family who seems to have given up, there are some things you can do to help that person.
Be able to recognize clues the person may be giving, either consciously or subconsciously. Look for symptoms such as depression, signs of hopelessness, lethargy, and so on. Listen for threats and words of warning, such as, “I have nothing to live for.” Be aware of whether the person becomes withdrawn and isolated from others. Trust your judgment. If you believe there is an imminent threat of suicide, trust your instincts. Don’t let others dissuade you from loving intervention.
Tell others. Don’t worry about breaking a confidence if the person is obviously contemplating suicide or says he or she has a plan. As soon as possible, involve the help of others, such as parents, friends, spouse, teachers, ministers, physicians, anyone in a position to assist the distressed individual.
Stay with the person. If you believe the person is in danger of carrying out the plan, do not leave the person alone. Wait with the person until medical help arrives or the crisis has passed.
Listen. Encourage the person to talk to you. Refrain from giving pat answers that could further depress the person who is on the verge of giving up. Listen and empathize with the person.
Urge professional help. Stress the necessity of getting help for the individual. And finally, be supportive. Show the person that you care. Do what you can to help the person feel worthwhile and valuable to you.
Lewis Smedes, professor of theology and ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary was asked this very question about suicide in the July 2000 issue of Christianity Today. He summarized his thoughts by writing,
“I believe that, as Christians, we should worry less about whether Christians who have killed themselves go to heaven, and worry more about how we can help people like them find hope and joy in living. Our most urgent problem is not the morality of suicide but the spiritual and mental despair that drags people down to it. Loved ones who have died at their own hands we can safely trust to our gracious God. Loved ones whose spirits are even now slipping so silently toward death, these are our burden.” God desires for us to have life, and to live it abundantly. As painful as your experiences are in your days on this earth, we serve a God who helps us overcome those feelings to experience a deeper meaning of his love. The pain of suicide can run deep, for those who have been tempted by it, and for families who have experienced its darkness. In those times of despair and sadness, it’s critical that we allow God to take over and carry the burdens we bear. It is only through God’s grace that sorrow can be turned into joy. And the cross of Christ has the power to heal even the most painful of circumstances.
I pray this message helps those in need that are suffering and need the light of hope to shine. We, here at; “On The Road For Christ” are ready and willing to listen and come alongside to help you work through your difficult time. Nothing is too big for God, give us a call (907.315.3394) or text us. Our email address is email@example.com. If you’re in a ministry we’ll be glad to agree in prayer for your needs too.
Until we get together again, may God’s mercy and grace abound in your life and all your prayers are answered.
Father, forgive us, help us to understand and help the needs of others. Give us a caring heart and always reconize that alone we can do nothing, but through You, we can do all things.
I pray comfort and peace overall in turmoil and if they don’t know you someone will come along and show the way to obtain a peace beyond all understanding.
We thank you Lord and give you all the praise and glory…
In Jesus name, we pray,