Suicide and Salvation
My heart was broken yesterday when I received the news that Pastor Rick Warren and his wife Kay lost their youngest son, Matthew. My heart was torn again when I found out later in the day that Matthew had taken his own life.
In the last two and half years, I have walked through the valley of suicide with three families as their pastor. I have been in the living rooms of mothers and fathers, holding them and crying with them as they are wracked by grief so intense one wonders if the sun will ever rise again. I have seen my share of death and dying as a pastor, but I have never seen the depths of grief plumbed as I have at the death of a child at his own hand. I’ve been with a family for hours as we waited for the coroner to arrive from 200 miles away to receive the body. I have presided over the funerals of three very young men who gave up on life and in a wave of despair made a grave decision that to this day still rocks their parents and all who knew them. All funerals are hard to preach. The funeral of a suicide is particularly hard in a different kind of way. There is the ever-present shadow of “we shouldn’t be here” that casts itself far and long.
So I have just an idea of what Rick and Kay Warren (and their whole family) are facing today and my heart breaks for them. All those feelings and emotions of pain and inadequacy as a pastor came flooding back yesterday.
I have also entertained more than once the very serious question of suicide and eternal destiny. Many people ask it and many more think it: Does someone who commits suicide go to hell?
There are some strands of theology that teach this. These are the same strands that teach the ability of one to lose their salvation as a result of continued sin. These ideas about sin and salvation are wrong.
A very brief explanation of sin and salvation:
- All people are sinners. (Romans 3:23)
- It only takes one sin committed in the course of a lifetime to condemn someone to eternal separation from God in hell. (Romans 6:23)
- Therefore all people, all of us, deserve hell.
- Jesus died on the cross to pay for the sin of everyone.
- Jesus, therefore, died for all sin, past, present, and future.
- This means that Jesus died for your sins before you ever committed any one of them.
- So when you accept Jesus Christ into your life, he forgives you of all your sin. Even the ones you have yet to commit.
Suicide is a sin. Technically it is the sin of murder – the murder of ones self. And this sin, like all sin, falls under the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.
The Bible speaks of the suicide of Judas, a disciple of Jesus. In Matthew 26, Jesus said that it would have been better for Judas had he never been born. Many scholars take this as a reference that Judas died separated from Christ and is now in hell. Surely it would be better for one to not be born than to end up in hell for all of eternity. Because Judas took his own life, this has caused some to ask if it was Judas’ suicide that led to his eternal damnation. The answer is, of course, NO. Judas is in hell because, although Judas was a “disciple” of Jesus, he never was truly a follower of Jesus. He never bought in. Even in that same chapter of Matthew, Judas is not able to bring himself to call Jesus “Lord” but instead defaults to the lesser and human term of “Rabbi.” This is all the indication we need as to the status of Judas’ heart toward Jesus. Using our vernacular today – Judas never gave his heart to Jesus.
When you give your heart to Jesus, your sins are paid for. All of them. Even the ones you have yet to commit.
And so today, as we hurt for the Warren family, by their own testimony, their son, Matthew, is now in heaven. May they find some measure of comfort in this as they grieve in the hope of Jesus Christ.