Is Suicide An “Unforgivable Sin” That Will Send You To Hell?


alotoflittlecandles asked a question:

Maybe this is too big of a question, or just something we can’t know for certain, but how do you think God views victims of suicide?

h-hopkins asked a question:

What does the bible day about suicide? If you are a born again believer that commits suicide, where would you go?


Hey there dear friends: First of all, if you have even a tiny inkling of anyone who is contemplating suicide or self-harm, please do everything you possibly can to reach out to them. Now. This second.

Too many times, we turn these huge issues into theological head-games and we forget that real people actually wrestle with self-condemnation every single day.  I don’t ever want to talk about suicide with a cold doctrinal point of view without making a call of action first.  I don’t want to be one more blogger who loses sight of actual breathing human beings: so please, please, please go do something about this and participate in the divine work of restoration.

So then, a few things to consider.  As always, please feel free to skip around.


1) The church in general makes sweeping dogmatic statements as a safeguard for bad behavior: but this removes any nuance in the conversation.

I see a larger problem within our church culture that tends to simplify the discussion into 100-or-zero type reductionism.

When someone says, “Suicide will send you to Hell,” most likely what they’re saying is, “You have to say that suicide will send you to Hell or else you risk allowing people to think it’s okay.”

In other words: Our church culture tends to run towards extreme theologies because we don’t want to endorse a slippery slope, which is why we purport these strangling fundamentalist views on Creation, Scripture, sexuality, and Hell.  Very often, Christians are so afraid of the dreaded “stumbling block” that we take a very hardline position for or against something, just to be 1000% clear that we’re not promoting any opposing view.

The danger, of course, is that we begin to trump issues over people without rational conversations, and we do not reach people where they are.  We end up saying, “You come to us,” which is the very opposite of what God did by coming to us first.


2) An entire Christian subculture of fear therefore produces toxic overreactions and backlash.

Pastors freak out when it comes to the issue of sex and dating, so we create an exaggerated church subculture of weird dating ideas that’s actually saying, “I’m going to scare the sex right out of you.”  This leads to neurotic harmful ideas about dating and unhealthy views of sex and purity.

It’s why so many people freaked out when the band Gungor said they no longer believe in a literal 7-day Creation or an historical Noah, because Christians suddenly thought “Well now everyone will throw out the entire Bible!”  While I mostly disagree with Gungor (and they were a bit condescending in their blog about it), I think most Christians brutally demonized them into a bloody pulp: when mostly they just wanted a discussion.

The church subculture says things like like “suicide equals Hell” because

1) we’re afraid to be bullied by other Christians who will yell “heresy,”

2) we want to beat our chests with King Kong theology in total confident bravado, and

3) we find it safer to go against what “the world” believes because it feels like we’re holding ground in victory against some common enemy.

It’s why the church goes nuts over cussing, tattoos, secular music, midriffs, Mark Driscoll, and “persecution,” but we’re not going nuts helping the poor and oppressed and depressed.

[Because of these reasons, I also no longer self-identify as a Reformed Calvinist.  It’s just too much arrogant chest-beating and no subtlety.]


3) God is bigger than my limited, narrow, short-sighted judgment call.

I absolutely believe that God regards each life on an individual case-by-case basis so that no two spiritual journeys can be evaluated by the same blanket theology. God has more grace and wisdom and clarity than my tiny two-foot doctrine.

Maybe all this is too soft or too easy of a view on things.  But I actually think black-and-white categories are too soft and easy.  It requires zero thoughtfulness to say “Yeah he’s going to Hell,” especially when the Bible doesn’t have such black-and-white-ness either.

It’s plausible that someone’s suicide could be a total rebellion against God’s gift of life or some kind of pagan death-worship.  In that case, maybe that person risks the fate of Hell.  But on the other hand, it’s also plausible that God does not judge this person based on one action at the very end of his or her life, but sees the person as a holistic whole.

Let’s look at it this way.  Let’s say today for the very first time, you cheated on your spouse or you cheated your taxes or you cussed out your parents or you did black tar heroin.  And Jesus decided to come back right now to judge the earth.  Should God judge you based on your singular previous action today?  Should God see your first time slipping up with this particular sin and say, “I will judge you only for this” …?  I mean really, that would suck: going to Hell for the one thing you happened to mess up today.

Let’s ask: At what point should God judge you or me?  In the middle of cheating on a spouse?  In the middle of a tantrum or that nasty blog comment or the thousandth time crawling back to porn?  In the middle of any one of our billions of horrible angry detestable thoughts about others?  Or should God judge us on the basis of His Son’s sacrifice on that cross two-thousand years ago?

The thing about suicide is that it happens once.  I know a lot of other events lead up to it: but in a frenzied moment of self-loathing or depression or numbness, which unless you’ve been through it, is nearly impossible to articulate or understand, sometimes a person feels there is no other option but to take their own life.

It’s an entirely isolated action made within an impenetrable vacuum of desperation.  As a limited human being with a 3 lb. brain, I can’t simply declare that God will send this person to Hell based on one action within the constraints of human time.

God does not exist within our view of time and does not judge us based on a singular point in history, but sees an individual across an entire history of life: and God is so much more gracious and nuanced and loving than our blanket-bomb theologies.

Jesus transcends our black-and-white categories by seeing each situation on their own, by seeing each prostitute and prodigal and tax collector and adulterer as a story sculpted over a life-time. 

I believe so long as our lives passionately rest in faith in the grace of God by His Son, however imperfectly, then God will see our hearts of faith rather our hands of failure, and we will be shown mercy.

To add: By all accounts, Robin Williams met Jesus at some point during rehab.  Either way, it’s not for me to judge his fate, nor millions of others.  I’m banking on God’s grace to be sufficient and enough.


4) I would never, ever endorse suicide as an option: but I would also never, ever declare that suicide is a trapdoor to Hell.  I’m not God.  I don’t get to say those things. 

So do I believe that suicide will automatically land you into Hell?

My unpopular opinion within Christian culture is no.

I know we’re supposed to say an emphatic yes because some kid with shaky faith might think that suicide is acceptable.

But I believe that we’re way too overly confident in our bold opinions about suicide and Scripture and sex.  I think that neo-fundamentalism is a chokehold on thoughtful conversations about life and faith and God.

So my God-given duty is to see those around me who are hurting and to serve them.  I know what it’s like to want to drive into a tree, to cut myself to dull the pain, to want to end it all.  And fortunately, I know what it’s like to have friends move towards me despite me, to love on me even when I refused their love, and to endure me and show me grace.  That’s the only theology I care about: the kind that doesn’t debate this stuff, but leans in to people.

In 2 Timothy 2:19, Paul says, “The Lord knows those who are his.”  It’s not a human right to judge.  It’s only my right to serve those I see now, by the grace of God, and to pull others away from the edge of death to the best of my own limited strength.

— J.S.

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18 thoughts on “Is Suicide An “Unforgivable Sin” That Will Send You To Hell?

  1. Just a suggestion, but I’ve always thought that suicide was “made a sin” very early on in most religions, simply to prevent true believers from opting for the heavenly afterlife, instead of the “shitty existence” that most of these early believers had to endure.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hey Ken, it’s very possible you’re right. Some religious rhetoric is often an extra constraint to morally forbid something, when it actually makes little sense and even creates more neuroticism in believers.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. wow and here I was thinking suicide is the highway to HELL hahaha thank you pastor J.S, your posts are always mind opening and leave much to be thought about. Great work. I hope I will continue to learn more. take care.

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    1. Thank you Lusekelo. Again, I want to be very careful that I’m not endorsing “suicide as an option,” but that rather the priority is relational commitment to those with suicidal thoughts, instead of throwing theological bombs to scare them out of those thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. 9 years ago my son committed suicide. SO I have a very personal story to answer the question. I am a very strong Christian and believe in the Bible with every breath I take, so here is my answer to the question you ask.
    I am not God, not by a long shot. So I don’t pretend to speak on His behalf.
    But I can see the whole picture in my son’s life. I understand the depression and confusion that led to his choice.
    That being said…there is also NOTHING that anyone could do that would ever be as offensive to me as killing one of my children and yet that is EXACTLY what Victor did the day he shot himself.
    But here is the really important thing to understand:
    I understand his choice. (I hate his choice), but I do understand it, and because of that understanding, I hold nothing but love in my heart for my son.
    If he were to somehow come through my door, I would only offer him love.
    No judgement,
    No recrimination,
    Just love.
    So if I can understand and forgive his choice, I am POSITIVE that the Lord can too.
    He is so much more than I am, and He is unconditional love and wisdom.
    My entire blog is dedicated to my son, and the life lessons I have learned along my path to healing from his suicide.
    Thank you so much for bringing this subject into the light.
    God Bless!

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    1. Hey dear friend, thank you so much for your willingness to share your story, as much as it might be painful. I cannot imagine the hurt and I’m grateful that you’re speaking up about depression, when so many others scoff at it as “weakness.” I pray your voice will continue reaching out and rising up. You’re absolutely right: we cannot presume to know the mind of God on all these things, but if our compassion is even a fraction of His, then that’s all the more reason to believe God knows what is both wise and good.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You have faced a very controversial issue here and done it with grace. There are no easy answers, and you may get some flak for your position. I couldn’t say a blanket “yes” or “no” to that question.

    However, I’m hearing more and more about pastors almost okaying suicide. One preacher at a funeral said something to the effect that “God had a long life planned for this young man, but he chose to go to be with the Lord sooner.” That kind of ‘endorsement’ scares me.

    I have heard about some people, including a neighbor’s Christian teen grandson who was on anti-depressants and this drug is known to promote strong suicidal thoughts in some people. This boy took his life, but who can say how clear his thinking was at that point, how much of “his choice” it was? Only God can.

    One thought I had as I read this article was the pressure Satan brings to bear on someone, to force them to take their life. It’s never right to yield to demonic pressure, but God only knows how much one person has borne, and can bear.

    I worked with a girl whose husband had a friend, Tony. Tony’s brother committed suicide, then his dad, and then Tony himself did. My coworker was frantic for awhile because she said her husband kept feeling “Tony’s spirit” talking to him, pushing him to take his life too.

    I explained to her that “spirits” of dead people can’t come back; this wasn’t Tony, but an evil spirit. I gave her Christian tracts for husband to read, and he did. It seems knowing the truth and the bit of reaching out to the Lord he did at that time set him free from that demonic pressure. Thanks be!

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    1. Hey Christine, thank you so much for sharing and for your thoughtfulness. You’re right, I want to be very careful that I’m not endorsing “suicide as an option” at all. Rather that we each have a relational responsibility to truly reach out to those who are suicidal and hurting, instead of using “hell” as a tactic to scare people out of depression. I think that’s the bottom line. Such scare tactics are cheap shots that are not only unsound, but never work in the long run.

      To be truthful, I had never considered the tricky topic of spiritual warfare while writing the post. It definitely must have some play in it, and I think an awareness of that can only give us more arsenal against the dark. Thank you for bringing that up.

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  5. There is no place in the Bible that says suicide is an unforgivable sin. Matthew 12:31,32 speaks of one sin that is unforgivable: “……blasphemy of and against the holy spirit….”

    wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/102003084?q=unforgivable+sin&p=par

    Peter, one of Jesus disciples, and later titled an apostle, in essence commited blasphemy against “the Son of Man, Jesus Christ”, when he denied Jesus three times “before a cock crowed…”under the heavy weight of sin and the fast pace illegally plotted circumstances that was taking place before Peter’s eyes concerning Jesus…..Jesus being a reader of hearts knew Peter sorely regretted what he did and said against his master Jesus. The scriptures later on show that Jesus and God had forgiven Peter, when Jesus appeared to Peter FIRST and then to the other disciples or apostles, after his, Jesus, resurrection. Jesus knew the man, Peter’s heart….Given, the circumstances that Peter found himself in and his Master Jesus, under, Jesus knew that what Peter said was out of character for this faithful disciple. Jesus knew the “spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” concerning Peter.

    Likewise, today, someone prior to commiting suicide could have been under tremendous pressure, stress, or emotional pain or physical chronic pain. Someone prior to committing suicide might have been bullyed at school, or on the internet, or on the job, or these “tender ones” could have prior to taking their own life, may have been suffering quietly from “home” abuse (verbal, physical, or sexual) at the hands of others or someone in their family…..Others prior to suicide, may have suffered from emotional guilt or a guilty conscience because of some “secret sin” that they’ve committed or were suffering from because of chronic depression. Other “tender ones”, deep down in their heart and mind could not see the “light at the end of the tunnel”, no matter how encouraging others were to him/her. How very sad and unfortunate for them.

    Many are “blindsided” or caught off guard when a loved one or dear friend commits suicide. It is just as the Bible says at Proverbs 14:13—–“EVEN IN LAUGHTER THE HEART MAY FEEL PAIN, AND REJOICING MAY END IN GRIEF.”
    God and His Son, Jesus Christ understand this and the scriptures say at Isaiah 55:7 that God “FORGIVES in a LARGE WAY.”, as opposed to being petty and unmerciful like some humans can be.

    Sometimes, prior to suicide, a loved one will give out subtle and not so subtle clues or hints in their speech that they may be possibly contemplating suicide or having suicidal thoughts. The Bible book of Job at Job chapter six, verses 1-3 says it all:
    IF ONLY MY ANGUISH COULD BE FULLY WEIGHED AND PUT ON SCALES TOGETHER WITH MY CALAMITY! FOR NOW IT IS HEAVIER THAN THE SANDS OF THE SEAS. THAT IS WHY MY WORDS HAVE BEEN ‘WILD TALK'”

    One who has committed suicide must not be judged, that is God’s “department”, that is His “call”, and not ours. He, God, sees the whole picture where as we are only peeping through a keyhole. That person’s life and future rests solely in His, God’s Hands and we can rest assured that God being a God of love will take all matters and circumstances into consideration concerning that person’s make-up and situation.

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  6. Would God condemn one who dies as a result of an illness – say cancer or congestive heart failure? NO! How is suicide so different? It is most often enveloped in depression or other mental health illnesses. Suicide is tragic for sure, often a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I believe that our eternal destiny is based on how we have lived and, as a Christian, more specifically on what we have believed about Jesus – not on how we died, whether by suicide or after prolonged dementia with drastic personality changes. My God is a God of love and grace and second chances, seeking to redeem rather than to condemn, although the choice is up to each of us.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I attempted suicide as a way of leaving this life to go to heaven, as a way to run from my hurt. It was a dastardly mistake, and I was shown the error of my ways by the grace of Jesus Christ. I tried drowning myself in the ocean and was hospitalized for complications resulting from infectious organisms living in my lungs. I was given a glimpse of several amazing and terrifying things while I was under the knife, and it confused the heck out of me. The only way I could make sense of anything was that there was a God who loved me enough to keep me alive, and Jesus broke through the fog and has been the source of my new life. May Christ compel you to live!

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  8. The thinking that I’d go to hell and suffer much worse kind of pain FOREVER if I commit suicide was the very reason why I couldn’t do it. Imagine if I wasn’t thinking of hell, I could have done it. So sometimes, it helps too. =)

    Like

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