Last week we had the precursor discussion on when it is appropriate and the barriers that can come up about discussing the theological implications of suicide for an individual and their eternal salvation. Today is when we try to answer if suicide is an unforgivable sin.
I want this more to be a resource for pastors and counselors than for people who are actively suicidal or have questions about God. Further, if you have any clarification questions or want to add to the discussion, join in in the comments below.
Unable To Ask For Forgiveness
It should be expressed upfront that suicide is a sin. John Piper labels in “Christian speak” as self-murder.
The first concerns some pastors have brought up is that when we sin, we need to ask for forgiveness. As a Christian, if you steal something, look at pornography, have too much pride, lie, or in anyway sin, you are called by God to repent.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.1 John 1:9 (NIV)
So the correlation here with sin is that we commit a sin when we “self-murder” but do not give ourselves the chance to repent. This though misses the mark and actually we are talking about justification and sanctification.
I’ve heard the two easily described as “justification frees you from the penalty of sin, sanctification saves you from the power of sin.” Our salvation, within the repenting and turning away from our sinful aways towards the Cross and therefore entering into Christ’s family, is justification. Ligonier clarifies it like this, ” It is, rather, a legal declaration in which God pardons the sinner of all his sins and accepts and accounts the sinner as righteous in His sight. God declares the sinner righteous at the very moment that the sinner puts his trust in Jesus Christ.”
I like how John Piper summarizes these theological points better in the article previously mentioned: “All sin, all my sin — the sin that I do this afternoon, tomorrow, yesterday — is all rooted in some level of distrust in the superior goodness of God. And I don’t go in and out of being a Christian when I sin and that measure of distrust becomes manifest in sinning. I don’t cease to be a Christian.”
What Is The Unforgivable Sin?
So we know that suicide due to a lack of sanctification does not lead to hell, but is suicide part of the unforgivable sin? Jesus tells us there is one and only one sin that separates us from God and if we commit it, we can never go to hell.
Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”Mark 3:28-30 (NIV)
He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.”
The Billy Graham Evangelic Association answers this clearly and concisely, ” While there is an unforgivable sin, it is not one that a true believer in Jesus Christ can commit.”
Have Hope, Give Hope
Kay Warren, Rick Warren’s wife, has taken up a huge cause with talking about mental illness within the Church and advocating for better discussions about the topic. Their son had committed suicide in 2013 and she and her husband have explored this topic extensively. Here is what she said in an interview two years after their loss:
“God promised us that Matthew’s salvation was safe and secure. Matthew gave his life to Jesus when he was a little boy. And so, I’m absolutely 100 percent confident based on the work of Jesus that Matthew is in Heaven… And that’s a certain hope.”
Instead of talking about condemning people to hell, something we do not have the power to do and is actually against Scripture, instead, let us have hope in Christ and motivation to share the Gospel. If someone professes to be a Christian, let that be between them and God and encourage them to live a Godly lifestyle. If they are not a Christian and having suicidal thoughts, share a message of hope and redemption with them knowing the fate of an unbeliever who dies without receiving the message of salvation into their heart.