If you’ve been following Christian news at all lately, you’ve seen a string of suicides by well-known pastors leaving many shocked and bereaved. The most recent incident was the suicide of a Southern Baptist pastor Jarrid Wilson who worked under megachurch pastor, Greg Laurie in Riverside, CA. Last year, another popular pastor committed the same act of self-violence to the detriment of his family and congregation.
The easy thing to do is mourn the loss of these friends and hope that they’re in a better place. The easy thing to do to soothe the families and loved ones who are suffering the loss is to assuage them by assuring them that their lost loved one is not suffering anymore and in a better place. Professing Christians and pastors do this too. We all want to believe that their suffering has stopped.
But has it?
I think we need to be really careful about preaching those who commit suicide into Heaven. Life is a precious gift from God and the Bible says that all those who hate God love death (Proverbs 8:36). The reverse is also true — those who love God love life. The act of taking one’s own life is the ultimate act of hatred against God — it is, in fact, an act of apostasy.
While I can acknowledge that there could — possibly — be some extenuating circumstances whereby a mind is so unrecoverably sick that one could perpetrate this act without full knowledge of what they are doing. Perhaps a schizophrenic, mentally retarded, or otherwise brain-damaged person, for example. But I would argue that in most cases, that is not true. Most suicides are, in fact, well-planned and perpetrated with the full knowledge of what they are doing — rebelling against God by rebelling against the life He gave to them.
I also want to be clear that I am not arguing in favor of the Roman Catholic-like teaching that “committing suicide sends you to hell.” My argument is much deeper than that and rooted in biblical truth, not manmade tradition. Nobody can “lose their salvation” for committing suicide just as nobody can “lose their salvation” by renouncing their faith. The act of apostasy is not that someone can lose their salvation but that, as Scripture argues, they were never saved to begin with.
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.1 John 2:19
To take one’s own life is the ultimate act of renouncing your faith — it is to announce to the world in one final act that you did not trust Christ, you did not love God, and you were not going to obey Him. The Bible does not make excuses for depression or suffering. The Bible commands us to suffer along with Christ so that we may be glorified with Him (Romans 8:17).
What the Bible does say, however, is that we are all without excuse (Romans 1:20). Is suicide the unforgivable sin? No. But it is, however, an act of apostasy for which we have no chance of turning from once it has been committed. So are there exceptions to this? Sure, there could be. But we do the body of Christ a disservice by assuming that those who commit suicide were true followers of Christ. Not only does it legitimize the act and send a message to people that this is acceptable, but it also downplays the judgment of God poured out on those who commit violence against Him without repentance. The act is, in and of itself, “foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” And,
Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.Romans 1:32