I have always had a fear of being, someday, terminally ill and suffering unbearably and wanting to die instead of continuing to suffer. However, I was always taught that choosing to die (suicide) was a sin and anyone who did so would spend eternity in hell. Does this mean that if we are truly sorry for our sins and try to follow the path where God has led us but at the time of our death we are weak and choose to die, we could still go to Heaven?
Suicide is one of those issues where God has not specifically and plainly spoke on the issue, but MEN insist on declaring dogmatic conclusions even though the Creator has not.
For the sake of this answer, we will speaking about professing Christians who commit suicide, because the destination of the unbeliever is not in question.
On one side, we have those who say “suicide is murder! If you commit suicide, you’re a murderer and murderers go to hell!”. Plain and simple. If only it was….
On the other side, you have the Gospel Lite, easy-believers, who claim that as long as you have “accepted Jesus in your heart”, nothing will keep you from heaven, even suicide. This group is harder to answer because it goes back to the issue of what constitutes true salvation.
Now, I will go on recording stating that if a TRUE Christian (which only God knows the true condition of a man’s heart) commits suicide, then that sin (if it was indeed sin) is just as forgiven as any other sin the Jesus paid for. To believe anything less is to say that Jesus sacrifice was not sufficient for all sins (a foundational truth of Christianity).
Having said that, it should be noted that suicide will be the obvious RARE exception for true Christians. Why? Because we of all people are a people of hope (1Thess 4.13-18); and those who commit suicide have either 1) lost hope, 2) are momentarily weakened by extreme circumstances, or 3) had no choice but to choose “suicide” (which would not be suicide in the true sense).
Let’s start with the last option. How could a person have “no choice”? Maybe in the purest sense, there is always a “choice” but put yourself on the top floor of the World Trade Center on Sept 11th. The fire is burning, the heat is beginning to blister your exposed skin as you lean out the window of the 110th floor. Jump? Or burn to death? Some merciless persons would say, “either burn to death and go to heaven, or jump and go to hell, because that would be suicide!”. Praise God that He is not heartless and legalistic like we can be.
Any extraordinary situation that leaves you the unbearable choice of “which agonizing death would you like?” can hardly be categorized as suicide in the true sense of the word.
What about those who choose to take their life in the face of extreme circumstances but not circumstances that lead to death? For example:
- A man gets the news that his entire family was just killed by a drunk driver and in his grief puts a gun to his head.
- A distraught cancer victim in excruciating pain takes a bottle of sleeping pills and dies.
- A woman catches her husband in bed with another and in a moment of emotional agony, takes her own life.
Are these situations so cut and dried that YOU want to declare them all murderers on their way to hell? Not me.
I will stand on what I know of God’s character and principles:
- Only God knows who is truly saved, and He is a merciful God who will not lose even one of His children
- Christians will not be a people marked by hopelessness
- Suicide, in general, is murder of one’s self as a general rule; murder is the deliberate taking of life for personal satisfaction or reason instead of Godly and lawful reasons
Conclusion? I believe a TRUE Christian, in rare instances of extreme weakness or extraordinary circumstances, would still be forgiven and saved by their merciful and loving Heavenly Father even after choosing what appears to be suicide.
This would, by definition, make their suicide not the same as “murder” because it would lack the same elements that define murder.
It would be either a sin, forgiven as any other sin atoned for by the Savior, or merely an unavoidable choice that God would know the truth about.
At this point, I will get two responses for sure:
One, “it doesn’t matter the reason or situation; that person died with a SIN being their last act and they didn’t ask forgiveness; you can’t go to heaven with a ‘sin’ unforgiven, so therefore, every person who commits suicide goes to hell”.
This viewpoint is so lacking in the understanding of atonement, forgiveness and salvation, I really can’t explain why it is wrong in this answer. I will go on record to say that this reaction is totally unBiblical and betrays a gross misunderstanding of true salvation.
The second response I will hear is: “you are giving people an excuse to commit suicide by saying that it isn’t always a sin”.
I can only stand on my answer and re-emphasize that we CANNOT be dogmatic where God has not been. There is no verse in the Bible that says, “suicide is always sin; if you do it, you will go to hell”. If there was a verse that said that, I would simply copy and paste it into this answer and be done with it. But there isn’t.
Suicide is a wrong. True suicide is always a sin. If a professing Christian chooses suicide, we should place his destiny into the hands of the Perfect, All-Knowing and Merciful God. Suicide of a TRUE believer (whom only God knows), though extremely rare, is not a sin that Christ’s blood does not cover.
We should teach that Christians are not to be hopeless; Christians should never choose or consider suicide if it can be helped. Suicide is never the answer. And yet, when it is chosen, we should leave the eternal destiny business to God.