A friend of mine emailed me with a question about suicide. A lot of people have asked me the same question, and I put so much into the answer that I thought I'd share it with you.
My friend said:
I know the Catholic faith teaches that suicide is the "unforgiveable sin", and I think the protestant belief may be the same. What/where are the scripture teachings on this?
My co-worker and I were talking and she says that she "believes in a kind God", and cannot accept that He would banish someone's soul to Hell. In a way, I also believe in a "kind God", but bottom line, I don't really know how I feel concerning suicide, and am looking for some help in figuring it out..
Here's my response:
I'm sorry for the loss of (name omitted) . I'm sure his wife and the rest of their family is going through a very difficult time. I'm also sure that you're giving as much support to them as you can.
You're right--the Catholic church teaches that suicide is a 1-way ticket to Hell. This is based on their doctrine that you have to confess your sins to a priest, and receive absolution from the priest. Since you are dead, you can't confess--so off to Hell you go. This is an unbiblical doctrine, because the Bible tells us over and over again that nobody goes to Heaven or Hell because of what they do--they go either to Heaven or Hell because of what they believe or don't believe, because of Who they know, or Who they don't know as their Lord. There will be a lot of good people in Hell, who have never received Jesus as their Savior. There will also be tons of sinners in Heaven, who are saved not because of anything they did to deserve it, but only because of God's grace, which they received in Jesus Christ.
A lot of people become so depressed that they want to die. Here are just a few of the "greats" from the Bible who wanted to die:
• Moses - Numbers 11:15 - "If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin."
• Elijah - 1 Kings 19:4 - "He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. 'I have had enough, LORD,' he said. 'Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.'"
• Jonah - Jonah 4:8 - "When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah's head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, 'It would be better for me to die than to live.'"
• Paul (who actually seemed to be contemplating which choice to make) - Philippians 1:20-26 - "I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22If 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! 23I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;24but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me."
What made these people choose to live? Somehow, they found hope. But I believe it's possible to be a Christian, and still reach the point where you can't see any hope. This may be due to a chemical process in the brain, as in depression. It may be due to seemingly hopeless circumstances, a perceived lack of support, or any number of things. I believe that when a person chooses suicide, they have left behind rational thought, and are no longer "themselves." How can God judge a person for what they did, when they were in a state of detatched, irrational thought, and it was not truly "themselves" who did it?
The story of Judas sheds some light on this. Both Luke 22:3 and John 13:27 say that Satan entered Judas. We like to condemn him for what he did, but are we really just in our condemnation? Would God be just, in condeming a person for what they did not themselves do? In John 6:70, Jesus, referring to Judas, says "One of you is a devil!" Was Judas actually a fallen angel? No--but he was certainly under the influence of the devil. Judas did not choose for himself, when he betrayed Jesus.
We see his remorse in Matthew 27:3-10 when Judas returns the money, and commits suicide. Is he still demon-possessed when he commits suicide? Or does he just feel so much remorse because of what he did, while he was demon-possessed? Hard to say. Some say that Judas was damned, because Jesus says he was "doomed to destruction" in John 17:12. Could Jesus not have been talking about his physical destruction (suicide) rather than a spiritual destruction (Hell)?
Some people will use 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 to say that everyone who commits suicide goes to Hell. It says, "Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? 17If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple." That sounds pretty clear, doesn't it? It does, until you realize that the body that Paul is talking about, in the entire chapter, is the church itself. What he's saying is that anybody who brings destruction to the church will be destroyed.
Hebrews 7:27 says, "Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself."
"Once for all." This means that when Jesus died, He entered timelessness, sacrificing Himself not only for the sins of people in the past, before the crucifixion, but also for the sins of people who would live in the future, after Him. Jesus didn't just die for the sins you've already committed--He died for the sins you haven't yet thought of. This means that even unconfessed sin is covered. We confess our sin to God, not so that we can be forgiven for each individual sin as we confess it, but so that we can realize the seriousness of our sin, express regret, and seek a change. Unconfessed sin doesn't damn a Christian. Jesus died once for all time, once for all sins, once for all people who would receive Him as their Lord.
John 3:16 gives us the assurrance that "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." The real question is not whether a person has confessed his sins to a priest, but whether he believes in Jesus, and receives eternal life.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "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." Our works neither condemn us nor save us. We are either saved by faith, or condemned because of our lack of faith.
Of course, I do realize the danger in this notion that you don't go to Hell for suicide. Some may take this as a license to commit suicide. This would be a horrible thing! Suicide robs God of the ability to use you in His Kingdom on earth. Suicide insults God, telling Him that you don't trust Him to work things out in your life. Suicide grieves our Lord, who came to rescue us from the grip of Satan. Jesus said in John 10:10, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."
In the Philippians 1 passage above, it is obvious which is the better choice: to remain in life, to let God continue to use you. Jeremiah 30:19 is clear: "This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live." Jeremiah 29:11 assures us: "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"
Dear friend, if you are reading this article because you or a loved one is considering suicide as an option, then please click here for an article entitled "Why Should I Not Commit Suicide?"