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.
[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.