Feb 192013 16 Responses

As We Read the Headlines, A Few Reminders About Suicide

The headlines tell the story of another life cut short by the act of suicide.

Few topics are as confusing as this issue. A few years back I did a sermon series in which the congregation picked the topic. The number one receiver of votes was suicide. It shocked me. I would have never guessed so many people would want to hear such a sermon. Yet with two suicides happening for every one murder, the topic is more prevalent than we would like. (See: Trust Me, Your Life Matters)

The old song says, “Suicide is painless,” but nothing could be further from the truth. It’s not painless for the family left with grief and questions. It’s not painless for the community who doesn’t know how to respond. It’s not painless for the first responders, doctors, or anyone else left with the images in their head. Suicide may be the most painful of human scenarios.

Here are some answers to a few common questions on suicide:

Is suicide a sin? Yes. The Bible outlaws the willful taking of human life. Suicide fits that description. Our lives are not our own. We are stewards of the lives God has given us. We are called to navigate the life we have been given. Life and death are ultimately in the hands of God and we do not have the right to impede on his decisions. (See: What I Mean When I Say ‘You Are a Sinner’)

Is suicide forgivable? Yes. Like any other sin, suicide can be forgiven by God and by others. As a Christian, I do not believe salvation is something I have accomplished for myself, but something God has done for me. He has forgiven my sins—past, present, and future. While a Christian should never commit suicide, a Christian is more than able to commit suicide in the same way we shouldn’t, but do, commit many sins. An act of disobedience does not undo God’s act of love. 

Why have people wrongly taught about suicide? Most teaching on suicide has been wrong teaching born from good intentions. Why are Christians tempted to teach that suicide is unforgivable? In hopes of scaring people from making that decision. It’s a good hope, but a bad choice. Wrong teaching never has good results. Teaching that suicide is unforgivable is not successful in preventing suicide, but is effective at heaping guilt upon surviving families.

The answers to these three questions should influence our reaction when faced with the issue of suicide.

If you have only experienced suicide from a distance:

  • Keep your mouth shut. It is not your place to judge.
  • Seek understanding. You don’t know what others feel, but you should attempt to understand.
  • Love with action. Words fail us, but a kind, personal act communicates properly.

If you have experienced suicide up-close:

  • Remember, we can help others but we can’t save them. It’s not your fault.
  • We are not responsible for the decisions of others. They made their choice.
  • Grieve and live. Suicide of a friend or loved one does not have to define us, but it is part of our story. Feel it, grieve it, but continue to live your life. (See: What to Do When Life Falls Apart)

If you are contemplating suicide:

  • Get help. Get physical (doctor), psychological (psychologist), and spiritual (pastor) help.
  • Understand the pain suicide causes and choose a different path.
  • Understand what you feel today is not what you will feel tomorrow. Change can happen.

As a pastor, I have been present in a myriad of different tragic scenarios. Many of them run together, but I can remember every individual suicide. The questions, the heartache, the senselessness, are unforgettable. Its been said that if someone could know the full consequences of suicide, they would never choose that act. Having watched families, I believe it. Suicide is often a foolish act with tragic results. Yet the foolishness deserves empathy, not judgment. People deserve truth, not false-teaching born from good intentions.

What questions do you have about suicide?

For more, see:

7 Recommended Books for When Life Falls Apart

When Life Seems Out of Control

 

16 Responses to As We Read the Headlines, A Few Reminders About Suicide
  1. […] It’s a tragic pattern played out on a regular basis–a person of faith has a secret, the ... kevinathompson.com/secrets-kill-choose-life-through-honesty

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