By Abner Campos
Suicide is a taboo. Suicide casts a long shadow of stigmas which are often dismissed and unaddressed—probably for good reasons.
Suicide is the culmination of what is darkest in our world. It is the outworking of wounds and pain and despair. Maybe we know too little about suicide to address it. We certainly enter this topic cautiously, recognizing that so many live in the aftermath and carnage of suicide.
Though the topic of suicide is sensitive to many, it must be addressed because the church must address the issues that matter most. More than 47,000 Americans died by suicide in 2017. As a church, we must walk through this valley with our grieving brothers and sisters across the country . The church must speak into the most chaotic pains that plague our societies.
As followers of Jesus, we look to the Scriptures for wisdom and understanding. Suicide is not foreign to the Bible. Abimelech, mortally wounded by a millstone, ordered his armor-bearer to dispatch him to avoid the suggestion he had been slain by the woman who had thrown the stone (Judges 9:52–54). The prophet Ahithophel hanged himself after betraying David (2 Samuel 17:23). Zimri burned his house down around himself after military defeat (1 Kings 16:18). There are also the more familiar stories of Saul and his armor-bearer (1 Samuel 1:1–6; 1 Chronicles 10:1–6), Sam- son, (Judges 16:28), and, of course, Jesus’ disciple Judas— although it is only Matthew’s Gospel that reports that he killed himself. (Compare Matthew 27:3–5 with Acts 1:18.)
There is nothing in any of these stories to suggest that the biblical narrators disapproved of the characters’ suicides .
In some of these instances, suicide is the result of despair, as in the story of Saul. However, in the story of Samson, we see a man who could not control his passions, yet still pursued pleasing God up to his last moment. Samson was honored in his death by his family .
Even so, these examples should not be our sole rule for determining a person’s eternal destiny. Why? Because salvation in Jesus is much more than these examples. We should not ignore these stories but put them in their proper place.
First, sin is more than the “transgression of the law” . The Scriptures also offer this definition: “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin” . One last definition: “Whatever is not from faith is sin” . This is my point: sin is much more than just an act. Sin is a physical and spiritual disease, a force and cancer, a choice but more than a choice—a predisposition.
The healing balm for sin is not behavioral management, but Jesus. This is salvation, this is our soteriology. “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” . A person has Jesus or does not, there is no somewhat.
Anyone arguing that a person will not experience eternity with Jesus based on his or her last act does not understand salvation. Salvation is not based on the merits and acts of the individuals, but on the merits and acts of Jesus. Salvation is not determined by a person’s last deed.
Please hear me: God does not desire that a person takes his or her own life. Jesus wants to rescue us from despair and hopelessness and pain now, not just in the life to come. Jesus’ view of suicide is not positive. Suicide is not a noble way of dying, but it is not outside of God’s grace.
Suicide is not the unpardonable sin and salvation is more than a person’s final act. Salvation is determined by the genuine relationship between a son or daughter with the Father in Jesus. I love these words:
The character is revealed, not by occasional good deeds, occasional misdeeds, or last deeds, but by the tendency of the habitual words and acts . What does this mean for our loved ones who have taken their own lives? It means they were in despair, they were fighting a mental illness often unseen by those closest to them, they could not see any hope, and death was their only way out—but God still saw them in their pain until their last breath.
God’s throne is His mercy seat. Let that sink in. The thread woven throughout God’s government and judgment is mercy.
We can look optimistically and hopefully toward resurrection morning because God is love, compassion, and mercy. Our God is good. I look forward to the day when we will sing, “Just and true are your ways, O King!”
If you are having thoughts of suicide, please know that you are not alone. If you are in danger of acting on suicidal thoughts, call 911. For support and resources, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
or text 741-741 for the Crisis Text Line.
Abner Campos is an associate pastor in Washington State. He previously interned as a pastor at Brighton Church in our very own Rocky Mountain Conference. He and his wife, Debbie, are moving to Michigan this fall where Abner will begin his Masters of Divinity at Andrews University. Email him at: [email protected]
- USA Suicide: 2017 Official Final Data, Suicidology, 2017. https://www.suicidology.org/Portals/14/docs/Resources/FactSheets/201 7/2017datapgsv1-FINAL.pdf. 2. Paul Middleton, Suicide in the Bible, Bible Odysseyhttps://www.bibleodyssey.org/en/people/related-articles/suicide-in-the-bible. 3. Judges 16:31. 4. 1 John 3:4. 5. James 4:17, NASB. 6. Romans 14:23, NASB. 7. 1 John 5:11-12, NIV. 8. This quote has been altered, originally from Steps to Christ, Ellen White, 57.