A Deadly Question

Yesterday, I had the privilege of meeting with one of my staff Pastors, and we had a significant discussion regarding suicide.  This pastor was ministering to a young adult (about 17 yrs old) who expressed the desire to end her young life.  She was already in a setting where she was getting professional psychiatric care, but as we try to listen and enter into the pain and angst that this young woman experienced daily, we were struck by our inability to come to a common consensus on the issues surrounding suicide.  Suicide is the 10th most common cause of death in the U.S., so it is relatively common.  Among young adults in United States, 15-19 yrs of age, 5 will take their lives today.  Yet, despite its frequency, we found that the young woman had already heard several inconsistent, supposibly Biblical responses to her pain.

Traditionally, Christians have often described suicide as an unpardonable sin.  The only suicides listed in scripture tend to be with people who had questionable relationships with God, such as Judas who betrays Jesus, and King Saul, who is disobedient to God.  We do not hear of someone committing suicide in scripture who appears to have a healthy relationship with God.  Some will understand this absence as making a statement that "No one who is truly a Christian will ever commit suicide", but I believe that is reading more into a non-statement than we should.  Interestingly, there are no scriptures that specifically talk about the state of the soul or an individual when they take their own lives.

In recent years, there has been a push to understand suicide and depression from more a disease model than a moral-ethical approach.  This understanding sees suicide as the outcome of a fatal disease, in the same way that a cardiac arrest is the outcome of ongoing heart disease.  In this model, there is no sin or righteousness, only disease and treatment.  The American Evangelical church has struggled with model as it removes the aspect of individual responsibility in one's actions.  However, the reality is probably holistic.  It is not just a physical-mental condition, but a physical-mental-emotional-spiritual condition that requires a holistic approach.

I want to know your thoughts.  Do you believe that people who commit suicide, no matter what kind of relationship they have with Jesus, are going to hell?  Do you believe that it is possible that the sacrifice of Christ for the forgiveness of sins is applied to our past, present, and futures once we place our trust in  Jesus as the Son of God?    Do you think that suicide is the "unpardonable" sin?  

Leave a comment on this difficult topic,

Blessings,

Pastor M Traylor