Suicide..A Taboo Subject in the Church.

When was the last time you heard or read a sermon on the subject of suicide?Have you ever preached a sermon on that subject?How many books that you possess that deal with Christian mortality mention suicide?Are you aware that there are about as many suicides in the nation each year as there were American deaths in the entire Vietnam war?Of the 50,000 annual suicide deaths about half are not reported as such.

Are those who commit suicide eternally damned as most people believe?Is there any hope for those left behind?Much of our thinking about suicide has been molded by old wives tales,tradition,society,and  faulty theology,rather than on God’s word.I sincerely hope that this post on suicide will provide hope and comfort for families dealing with the horror and stigma associated with suicide by a loved one.

On Saturday,April,4,I had the funeral service for a 49 year old man.His parents are faithful members of our church.A young pastor,age 36,who grew up in our church took his own life leaving behind a wife and 4 children.Even though suicide occurs with frequency and in virtually every community..the subject is taboo in the church.

The Bible tells of six self-killings. The best known is that of the betrayer Judas as recorded in Matthew. A thousand years earlier, King Saul fell on his sword rather than become a captive of the Philistines who had defeated his army. Another notable suicide is recorded in the Book of Judges. Samson desired to take revenge on the Philistines who had tortured him, and so he prayed: “Please God, give me back my strength just this one time more, so that I can get even with the Philistines for making me blind.” He then pushed against the pillars supporting the temple of the god Dagon and shouted. “Let me die with the Philistines!” When the building fell, Samson perished, along with many of his enemies. The biblical writers neither condemn nor commend those whom they record as having taken their own lives. Perhaps the narrators thought it was fitting for Samson, Saul and Judas to respond to their varied situations by committing suicide. (The other three biblical suicides were minor Old Testament figures.(William Phipps).

Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death nationally and ranks above homicides and deaths from drunk driving.

One suicide occurs every 16 minutes, with one attempt every minute.

The highest suicide rate is among Caucasian men over 50 who are not medically ill.

Of the many millions of Americans who suffer from depression in any given year, over 80% can be effectively treated, but only 30% actually seek help, and of that number, slightly more than 15% are accurately diagnosed and effectively treated.

Although most gun owners reportedly keep a firearm in their home for “protection” of “self-defense,” 83% of gun related deaths in these homes are the result of a suicide, often by someone other than the gun owner.

From suicides that occurred between 1970 and 1995, there are an estimated 4.53 million survivors in the U.S.; this number grows by 186,000 per year.

The number one cause of suicide is depression undiagnosed, untreated, or ineffectively treated.(Heather Hayes).

Every 90 minutes a teenager tragically and needlesly takes their life in this country.Six thousand a year commit suicide.Six hundred thousand attempted suicide in the last year alone.Since 1955 we have seen an increase in teen suicide of 300%.Teen suicide is now the second leading killer of teenagers in our country,only behind automobile accidents.There is a problem and a plague and nowhere is immune from this problem.Every part of our country is affected.

What do we say to the loved ones of those you committed suicide?When in their deepest grief they cry out to God and heaven is silent,can we give them any hope?Philip Yancey in his book,”Reaching for the Invisible God”writes,Life has a way of toppling our presumptions as Christians.Just when we’re confident we understand God the bottom drops out.We lose a loved one.Our health fails.Or our own intellect begins to shout objections it once only whispered.Where is God with the answers?Why is he so distant so often?How do we bridge the gap?After all,God is not a physical being like us —-so how do we relate to him?Is God playing games?What can we count on this God for?This relationship with a God we can’t see,hear,or touch-how does it really work?”

Can we say to the grieving loved ones that darkness,despair,and depression are inevitable and legitimate experiences?

Ron Dunn,whose son,Ronnie jr,took his own life writes in his helpful,insightful book,”When heaven is silent”Darkness,despair,depression-are these legitimate spiritual experiences?Isaiah the prophet thought so:”Who among you fears the Lord/and obeys the word of his servant/let him who walks in the dark/Who has no light,/trust in the name of the Lord/and rely on his God.”(Isa.50:10).

As a matter of fact ,Isaiah is saying that the way you can recognize one who fears God and obeys the Lord Jesus is by observing how he acts in the darkness.(Dunn).

Thomas Goodwin wrote a treatise,”The child of light walking in the darkness.”Is it  true that a child of God can experience”Dark nights of the soul?

Do you know this hymn?There is a fountain filled with blood,Drawn from Emmanuel’s veins,And sinners plunged beneath that flood Lose all their guilty stains.

How about this one…”O for a closer walk with God?”

Where is the blessedness I knew when first I saw the Lord?Where is the soul-refreshing view Of Jesus and His word?

What peaceful hours I then enjoyed!How sweet their mem’ry still!

But they have left an aching void the world can never fill.

Return O Holy Dove,return,Sweet messengers of rest;I hate the sins that made Thee mourn And drove Thee from my breast.

William Cowper,a British poet who in the eighteenth century became the great hymnwriter for the evangelical movement in England,wrote those hymns.He also wrote the famous hymn”God moves in Mysterous Ways,His Wonders to Perform.”He wrote that hymn on the eve of his second suicide attempt.

Modern psychiatrists have diagnosed Cowper as ”bipolar depressive.”Throughout his lifetime,before and after his conversion,the poet moved in and out of severe bouts with depression,which he called”madness.”

He lived the last quarter of his life in seclusion,never entering a church.But as one writer said,”His hymns were there.Ron Dunn wrote,”They are still there,giving a tongue to the pain of the doubter,the weak,and the sufferer.Every time I hear them now,I admire the man who kept on writing.”

Christians need to learn to be especially understanding of families that have sustained suicide.They often feel spiritually alienated.Such alienation may be expressed toward God for allowing such an injustice to happen to them.

Social thinking and Catholic theology have profoundly influenced the teaching of the church about suicide.

Suicide,for many centuries,has been seen as a mortal sin and a social disgrace.

In the Catholic church Christians who committed suicide were denied a Christian burial.No one could commit suicide,be a Christian ,and go to heaven.

In the old English tradition suicide was considered a felony.Those who took their own lives would forfeit all their goods and property.They were only buried at night at a prominent cross road with a wooden stake driven through their body.

What does the Bible say about suicide and the fate of those who so tragically destroy their life?

Suicide is rare in the pages of the Bible.They saw life as a gift in the Bible and in ancient Biblical times.They knew life was a sacred gift from God and they treated it as such.

There are no specific laws against suicide in the Old Testament.There are laws about just about everything governing every part of Jewish life and yet there is not a specific law regulating suicide.There are laws regulating murder and the destruction of life..but not regulating suicide.

Saul and Sampson received burial in the custom of ancient Israel.They were not dishonored.They were not condemned.They were not disgraced because of the manner of their death.

On the basis of scripture we can say suicide is a sin because it violates at least two things:

1.Suicide violates the sanctity of human life.Gen.9:6.Whoso sheddeth man’s blood,by man shall his blood be shed:for in the image of God made he man.So for me to destroy my life,an innocent life,is to destroy the sanctity of life even though I am infliciting death upon myself.

2.Suicide is a sin because it violates the Lordship of the Creator.1.Sam.2:9.He will keep the feet of his saints,and the wicked shall be silent in darkness;for by strength shall no man prevail.When an individual chooses to take his own life in that last act of their lives upon earth,they are defying the Lordship of the Creator and his right to terminate their life in his plan and in his time,in his manner of choosing.In that final act of rebellion,they are violating the Lordship of their Creator.

However,even the sin of suicide cannot condemn the child of God to hell.

In John 10,Jesus,the good shepherd,says this about his sheep(believers).And I give unto them eternal life;and they shall never perish,neither shall any(man)pluck them out of my hand.My Father,which gave them me,is greater than all;and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.I and the Father are one.John.10:28-30.

In John.17:12,Jesus said in his prayer to the Father,those that Thou gavest me I have kept,and none of them is lost,but the son of perdition;that the scripture might be fulfilled.

Paul assures every beliver in Christ that,there is now no condemnation(damnation)to them which are in Christ.Romans.8:1.The Apostle of Christ gives hope and help to the loved ones of suicide victims when he writes in Romans.8:35,37,38,39..Who shall seperate us from the love of Christ?shall tribulation,or distress,or persecution,or famine,or nakedness,or peril,or sword?Nay,in all things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.For I am persuaded,that neither death,nor life,nor angels,nor principalities,nor powers,nor things present,nor things to come,Nor height,nor depth,nor any other creature,shall be able to seperate us from the love of God,which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

There are many other verses in the Bible that teach the truth of eternal life for the believer and not temporary life.

Is suicide the unpardonable sin?

Why do most people think that suicide is the unpardonable sin?

There is only one unpardonable sin in the Bible.Mark.3:28,29.Verily I say unto you,All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men,and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme:but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness,but is in danger of  eternal damnation.

Those who believe that suicide is the unpardonable sin conclude that a person who takes his own life does not have an opportunity to ask for forgiveness and therefore they are eternally lost.

I hardly think that they have a similiar conclusion about the other nine commandments…just one..Thou shall not murder.

There are several reasons why this thinking and theology is faulty.I mention three of them.

1.They fail to understand God’s covenantal care.Hebrews.8:12.For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness,and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.That is God’s promise(contract,covenant)to all believers who have placed their faith in Christ Jesus.

2.When a sinner is saved..all sins,past,present,and future are forgiven.

Acts.13:38-39.”Be it known unto you,therefore men and brethren,that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins;and by him all that believe are justified from all things,from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.“Total,complete forgiveness is given instantly.The moment you believed,God forgave the sins you had committed and were to commit.Forgiveness is total,complete,and forever for the Christian.There is no such thing as an unforgiven sin in the life of a Christian.It is all forgiven.

The question is often asked,How many of our sins have been forgiven?What’s the answer?Col.2:13 gives the only answer:”And you,being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh,hath he made alive together with him,having forgiven you,all trespasses.”

3.Finally,to think that a believer who commits suicide is damned forever is a failure to grasp the heart of the gospel.

Second Corinthians 5:21.He (God)made him(Jesus)sin for us,who knew no sin;that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

What does it mean…He made Jesus sin?Only in one sense.He treated him as if he committed every sin ever committed by every person who would ever believe.When in fact,he committed none of them.Hanging on the cross,he was holy,harmeless,undefiled.Hanging on the cross,he was the spotless Lamb.He was never for a split second a sinner.He is totally God on the cross,but God is treating him as if he lived my life.God punished Jesus for my sins,turns right around and treats me as if I had lived his life.That’s the doctrine of substitution.That is the heart of the gospel.And what you get is complete forgiveness..covered by the rightousness of Jesus Christ.When God looks at the cross,He sees you and when he looks at you,he sees Christ.

We are made the rightousness of God…not merely righteous..but righteousness itself.not merely righteousness,but the righteousness of God.

1.John.4:17.And he is made of God unto us righteousness.

1.Peter.2:24.Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree,that we,being dead to sins,should live unto righteousness:by whose stripes we are healed.

As our sin is made over to him,so his righteousness to us.The innocent was punished voluntarily as if guilty,that the guilty might be gratuitously rewarded as if innocent.

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Explore posts in the same categories: depression, Grieving for dummies, How to grieve., Rom.8:28, suicide, Uncategorized, unpardonable sin

5 Comments on “Suicide..A Taboo Subject in the Church.”

  1. pastorinthewoods Says:

    excellent!

  2. Les Puryear Says:

    You said, “Those who believe that suicide is the unpardonable sin conclude that a person who takes his own life does not have an opportunity to ask for forgiveness and therefore they are eternally lost.”

    This is the fallacy of those who insist that every single instance of sin must be repented or it isn’t forgiven.

    When we repent of sin, and place our faith in Christ, ALL of our sin, past, present, and future, are forgiven. Why is this so hard to people to understand?

    Good post.

    Les


  3. Thanks for addressing this topic that is unfortunately overlooked way too often.

    Well done, sir!

  4. Quinn Hooks Says:

    Thank you for sharing your insights and pastoral experience with this difficult subject material.


  5. You recently commented on my post about Job, boy was he in a high risk situation for suicide. We must be careful and learn from Job and his response to tragedy.


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