This past Sunday we finished our sermon series, “Death…Then What?”, a look into what God teaches us about crossing over from death to life. During these last four weeks, we entertained a lot of excellent questions about the great mystery that is eternity.
The question I heard the most, and usually in personal conversation, is the suicide question: Does someone who commits suicide automatically go to Hell. The short answer – the right one, actually – is no. Suicide is not in itself the unforgivable sin, so therefore it does not warrant instant condemnation to eternal damnation.
The key word in the question, though, is “automatically.” Suicide is most definitely a sin against God, the Creator and Lord of life. Suicide is murdering yourself. But according to Jesus, the only sin for which there is no forgiveness is “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-29). What this refers to is the conscious and willful rejecting of the Holy Spirit, which means rejecting the grace of God and everything that comes with it, including Jesus Himself. It is the sin of unrepentant unbelief. This cannot be forgiven because the sin itself is the refusal of forgiveness, found only in Christ. For the child of God, if you worry that you may be guilty of doing this, your worry itself is the sign you haven’t.
Is suicide the same as the sin against the Holy Spirit? Not necessarily. It certainly could be, if the one murdering himself has already cursed God and ejected Jesus from his heart and life. The final sin of suicide is simply stacked on the pile of unrighteousness and unrepentance that led him to this point. It isn’t the suicide that brought the damnation; suicide just expedited the trip.
For Christians, suicide is more complicated than that. Anyone who even contemplates suicide is already fighting the larger battle within, the one we usually refer to as depression. Real depression is not just being sad or having the blues; depression is deep, it is medical, it is chemical, and it is mind-altering. I am not myself when I’m losing the depression battle. My thoughts and my emotions go careening out of control into places I never wanted to go, like a deadly and terrifying roller coaster with no one at the switch. In many cases, the one who suffers from depression cannot pull themselves out of it, cannot “snap out of it,” cannot ignore it in the hope that it just goes away.
The depression battle spills over from our bodies and minds into our souls. We struggle with the thought that God cannot possibly love me, when I don’t even love myself. The child of God knows they should believe more, trust more, pray more, and follow Jesus more, but they just can’t seem to do it. We get trapped on the dark side of works righteousness, where we think it’s all up to us but we’re such miserable failures, God won’t forgive us. He won’t save us. In fact, He’s probably already punishing us for our mountain of sins and failures. He can’t love me anymore, not when I’m this bad.
And at that point, we don’t even realize that we’re singing Satan’s favorite song.
Those self-condemning thoughts and feelings do not rise to the level of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, any more than my self-aggrandizing thoughts and feelings of deciding to accept Jesus or giving my heart to Him mean I’m saved. Every one of us sins a lot and sins every day, and each of us deserves from God nothing but punishment. But not a single one of my mountain of sins is greater than the love of Jesus. Not one of them will disqualify me from His Kingdom.
The grace of Jesus Christ is overwhelmingly powerful, impactful, wonderful and unconditional. His ability to forgive is infinitely more powerful than my ability to obey, to follow, to think or to feel the right things in the right way at the right times.
All of us need to hear this and re-hear it, and we all need to say it and re-say it. I’d rather let love prevent the contemplation than ask theology to retrofit the act. Every believer in Jesus needs to hold to His cross for dear life, knowing that I have yet to invent the sin that His blood cannot atone.
For the one who loses hold of that knowledge, that certainty, that hope for a brighter day, we pray for the same mercy and grace He’s given us for every other sin we’ve ever committed. It doesn’t mean that we’ve also lost hold of faith, as frail and fleeting as it may seem at that point. We’ve lost hold of ourselves. But Jesus never loses hold of us, and the strength of His grip far exceeds my own.
Yes, the Christian who commits suicide is sinning against God. It is the ultimate act of selfishness, really. The real torture of suicide goes on in the shattered lives and broken hearts of those who are left behind. But the depressed mind and heart don’t think that, can’t see that, and tragically accepts the lie that everyone’s better off without him. They are so wrong.
But are they in Hell? Maybe they did blaspheme the Holy Spirit right before they carried it out. Maybe not. Are they in Heaven? I don’t know that either. And to me that’s the worst thing to face about someone’s salvation or condemnation: I don’t know. I think so. I hope so. But I don’t know so. Only Jesus does.
But I cannot find a single verse in Scripture that says “automatically,” or similar concept. In Hebrews 11:1, though, God says, “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” So let’s go build some faith.