Suicide is on our minds right now because it is all over the news that Robin Williams killed himself. When someone well known and loved by people commits suicide it is always shocking. People often envied them and thought to themselves that if I could just be like that person I would be so happy. But we aren’t able to look at life through their eyes. We don’t know what they are struggling with when the lights go down and the microphone is absent. It was just a few days ago that I heard of a teenager who was a cheerleader at school, a very successful student leading her class in most subjects and one who was popular with just about everyone who knew her. Her parents thought she was doing great and happy in life. But she went home one night after an event where she seemed to be as happy as could be, and killed herself. She wrote the parents a note telling them it wasn’t their fault and that she just couldn’t deal with life. But such notes don’t take away the huge emptiness or pain that is left behind.
What does God say about suicide? Is it talked about in the Bible? Is it murder of one self? The Bible mentions the suicide of Saul in the Old Testament. He was already wounded and was facing death at the hands of the enemy. He even believed that if he didn’t kill himself they would torture and torment him until his death so he wanted to end it all. Later in the New Testament it tells of the suicide of Judas who had sold Jesus to the religious leaders for 30 pieces of silver. After he had carried out his plan of betrayal he faced the depth of his sin and instead of being happy, he was deeply distressed. He tried to take the money back but the religious leaders refused his money. In deep despair he went out and hanged himself. But when Peter talked with the 120 who were in the upper room with him after Judas death, he told what had happened and how he had gone to his own place. But he made no mention of any sin or murder involving how he died. He pointed to his sin in betraying the Lord but didn’t declare that since he had committed suicide he was going to hell. That really seemed to be insignificant with regard to his life and death.
For a thing to be murder it must be voluntary, premeditated action by a rational person. There isn’t a place in the Bible that said, “Suicide is the unforgivable sin.” Through years of preaching it has been my lot on many occasions to be called when someone had either attempted suicide or has committed it. Just about every time I’ve talked with someone who attempted suicide and was rescued in time to save their life, they’ve said, that after taking the pills or whatever the means of killing themselves they wished they hadn’t done it and have asked God to please forgive their sins and let them live.
But what if a person does kill themselves? Where do they stand with God? First, remember that God doesn’t hold people responsible for actions that they aren’t mentally capable of making a rational decision about. For example God doesn’t count the sins of a child against them since they can’t understand right from wrong at the time. If a person is mentally incapable to making right decisions it isn’t held against them. Even in the courts of our world we don’t hold people responsible for actions when they aren’t mentally capable to knowing what is right from what is wrong. Second, remember that suicide is most often tied to severe clinical depression. It is done when a person feels that their life is hopeless. They are in despair and see no way for things to get better and they feel they cannot live with the stress or hurt they are under at the time. We may say to the person or about them that you are wrong, there is hope. It will get much better. You will see things differently tomorrow and all such answers may be correct. But when one is in the depths of depression all those answers seem useless. Clinical depression isn’t just being sad about some things. It is an illness for which one needs medication to help them put things back into perspective. One can no more control the depression and it’s affects on them than a diabetic can control their blood sugar by their determination. Third, keep this thought in mind. God’s judgment isn’t based simply on the last thing a person did in life. In Hebrews 6:9-10 it says, “Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things – things that belong to salvation. For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.” Think about this point. The writer had just accused them of not growing up spiritually. He had warned them severely to leave the elementary things behind and move on to the maters of maturity. He told them if they turn away they could get into a situation where there was no return. Yet he said, “I am persuaded of better things for you.” Notice he then said, “God is not unjust.” God won’t judge you simply on what you have done or failed to do in this situation. He doesn’t forget the things you have done or the ways you have served the saints and still do. So God’s judgment isn’t just on what I’ve done in the last two weeks of life. He judges based on my life. He doesn’t condemn because in the last second you sinned instead of prayed. He looks at your life and your commitment For God to forget all that we’ve done and just judge us on the end of life, would be unjust for Him to do. And God is a just, fair and loving God not one that longs to condemn people.
When a suicide takes place, it is always devastating to the family and close friends who are left behind, It is extremely important at such a time for those who know them and have a relationship with them to reach out to them in love, grace and compassion. Instead of looking for the faults and telling of the blame, they need folks who will listen and care and strive to hear and understand. Their eternity is between them and God and we have no idea what may have taken place in the last minutes of the person’s life. Extend Gospel, not judgment.