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Ask A Pastor: Suicide and the Church?

Question #1:

“What resources does the church have for those contemplating suicide?”

Answer:

If you turn to the dictionary the definition of suicide is: intentional killing of oneself. As Christians let’s biblically define the term ‘suicide.’ The 6th commandment is, “You shall not murder.” In the Heidelberg Catechism’s explanation we confess that included in this, is that: “I hurt not myself, nor willfully expose myself to any danger.” So we conclude that suicide is ‘self-murder.’


Suicide is contemplated at times not only by the ungodly, but also, sadly, by believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. One of the resources the church has is the web where we can find many sites listing the warning signs of suicide. The church can be prepared by knowing what those signs are. When we become aware of someone having suicidal thoughts we need to take it seriously. As fellow believers we should be prepared to come alongside that person on our knees in prayer, with our Bible in our hands.


At our church we have a rack of mini-books on various subjects, including the topic of suicide. I just read through the one entitled, “I Just Want to Die: Replacing Suicidal Thoughts with Hope.” Its author, David Powlison, of the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation, writes biblically, clearly and convincingly on this subject. The various headings, include: “Your Life Matters to God”; “Your Life Matters to Other People”; “Consider What is True”; and “Bring Your Hopelessness to the One Who is True.” In the final part of the booklet are, “Practical Strategies for Change.”


I suggest that all church members read this little booklet, and familiarized themselves with it. That way when we become aware of someone contemplating self-murder we will be equipped to prayerfully, carefully, and biblically guide them to the truth as it is in Jesus Christ.

Question #2:

“Do those who commit suicide go to heaven?”

Answer:

I am taking the liberty to change this question because I do not think the questioner is asking whether all those who commit suicide go to heaven. Certainly as Reformed believers we would not think that a person outside of Christ would go to heaven no matter how they died. Rather, the question is: Is it possible for those who commit suicide to go to heaven?

Back up a little bit and consider what the Bible says about who goes to heaven. Surely only the elect, those who come to faith in Christ by believing the gospel, go to heaven. All others who reject the gospel, and refuse to bow before King Jesus, do not go to heaven. There is also the matter of the unpardonable sin from Matthew 12:31 “Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.” Whatever we may believe that sin is, it is not the sin of murder: not even self-murder.


Now we can also ask: Is it possible for a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ to commit the sin of self-murder? There are conflicting views on this matter even among Reformed thinkers. Some, without Scriptural references, say that the Lord would never allow his children to come to such despair that they would take their own life. Yet even Christians can suffer mental illness and debilitating depression. Though Scripture forbids (self)-murder it does not say that a murderer cannot go to heaven. Again, our Lord forbids all kinds of sins, including murder, yet all such sins are forgivable.


Some people say that in the case of suicide a person cannot repent of that sin and confess it, and thus it cannot be forgiven. That is an unscriptural Roman Catholic way of thinking, and contrary to Scripture. There will always be unconfessed sins in a believer’s life, and even our repentance is stained with sin. Apart from the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ there is no forgiveness, and no heaven for sinners.


​Suicide is a sin, and a very tragic event. A believer who commits suicide leaves an extremely poor witness of the hope in Jesus Christ. Yet every believer carries within himself the seed of every type of sin. It is only our Lord’s constraining hand upon us that keeps us from breaking out into all kinds of sins. When we take our eyes off Jesus we are prone to despair and dark thoughts, yes even thoughts of suicide. Jesus made it very clear that even thinking sinful thoughts, let alone committing sinful deeds leads to destruction. Yet His grace is so great that the most heinous sins in thoughts, words, and deeds can be forgiven. For His people, whom He saves, His blood is sufficient to wash away all our sins.


The Lord Jesus Christ obeyed the 6th commandment perfectly, yet died on the cross for the sin of murder, even self-murder! If an unbeliever commits suicide it is forever too late to be saved, and he will go to hell. For a saved person to commit self-murder, though it is a heinous sin against the grace of God, this sin will not keep him out of heaven. For those who believe in Him, Christ paid the price for all their sins, yes, even the sin of murder.


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