Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Question from a Child

Please forgive all clumsiness with which I address this issue; I fear I am not at all qualified to address issues such as this with any authority, and so any thought I may have on the matter is mere speculation.

                I suppose it was two weeks ago, now, that I was a chaperone for Friendship Baptist Church’s Centri-Kid trip.  While there I was asked a question by one of our group’s children that, frankly, astounded me.  By all appearances, the child could not have been more than 9 or 10 years old, and she was asking me a question that many adults are not ready to have answered for them.  The question she asked was concerned with what happens to the souls of Christians who commit suicide.  I shall do my very best in this post to accurately field this question with all tact so as to not unnecessarily offend.

So… here we go…
                Is suicide a sin?  To my knowledge, the scripture never directly addresses it as such, and to those who would say “Thou shalt not kill,” the Hebrew more accurately translates to “don’t murder.”  The word “murder” refers to unlawfully or maliciously taking the life of another.  But I think, perhaps, we should look at this from another perspective.  Could suicide be a sin of pride?  Certainly it could be – to think that a man has the authority to decide whether or not his life should continue is certainly a welling up of pride (although not in the sense that we traditionally view pride).  Then, in another sense entirely, we consider that the Christian view says that a man gives his life to Christ; from that point forward it is no longer his life, so might it be said that for him to take his life, since it is no longer his, would be murder?  Certainly I should think that the God who gave His own son as the sacrifice of ultimate atonement would place such high value on the lives He sought so hard to redeem that He would surely be offended by a man throwing that life away so flippantly.  Yes, I feel I must conclude that suicide is, in fact, a sin.
                Can a man who is truly in Christ commit suicide?  Of all the facets involved with the question I’m here addressing, this is the one I am most unsure about.  Until recently I would say without pause that a Christian is incapable of suicide; however, certain events have been called to my attention that cannot be ignored.  Consider the case of the man who was captured by the Vietcong and tortured horribly.  Finally, he sees his chance to escape, so he capitalizes, running as far and as fast as he can.  Unfortunately, he can’t get far enough fast enough and is about to be captured again.  Wishing not undergo that torture again, he makes the decision to take his life.  Consider also the cases of those who have chemical imbalances.  They are certainly far from their own minds, and often put into a lasting and deep depression.  Ultimately, to escape their misery (brought on by no fault of their own; the chemicals in their brain are simply not behaving as they ought to), they take their life.  Perhaps it is possible that a people who truly are in Christ can commit suicide.
                One of the great arguing points of the church is the availability of forgiveness for suicide.  Traditionally, the Catholic Church has argued that suicide cannot be forgiven.  In a way, I can see where this thought would come from.  Practically a sin cannot be forgiven after death because forgiveness requires to be asked, and the dead cannot ask forgiveness.  The nature of forgiveness dictates that it cannot be given for a grievance that has yet to be committed, and cannot be granted in advance for a grievance when the intent to sin remains.  The problem with this thought is that it binds God’s forgiveness to our linear timeline.  I think, probably, that the forgiveness of God exists outside of time with God Himself.  Thus, it was sufficient to atone for the sins of men who lived before Christ came to Earth (in regards to the sacrificial system – I think that it might have served more as allegory to the coming Christ than full atonement.  This would certainly leave room for explanation as to how men were saved before God instituted the sacrificial system**), the sins of men who live now, and the sins that have yet to be committed.  So, while in life we still must ask forgiveness and repent from our sins, the grace of Christ has already sufficiently atoned for all of our sins.

                In conclusion, while I am yet not entirely convinced that a Christian can commit suicide (I concede that it might be possible, but I do not necessarily know), I feel confident to say that, if it is possible, any Christian man who does so will be welcomed with open arms into the Kingdom of the Father.

**Keep in mind that much of what I am here discussing is speculation.  I feel that I do not have the authority to say with decisiveness anything that God Himself has not revealed completely to us in His Word.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The initial post and thoughts on a cultural trend

I've decided to create this blog to share my thoughts (however infrequent, for I tend to go great spans of time without having any relevant thought at all) on life, scriptural topics, and the like.  The name is derived from an irritation I came upon while going through town and noticing the presence of RedBox machines and Self-Checkout stations.  Simply put, I love people, not machines.  I don't like the impersonal attitude of our world in which we try to minimize human contact as much as possible.

So here it is, the initial post...
                Anyone who knows anything much about me at all surely knows that I am currently a student at Mississippi College.  When I arrived in Clinton last August, I encountered a relic from the time when I grew up: on highway 80 and less than a mile from campus is a video store.  My home town (Grenada, Mississippi, for those who may be unaware) hasn’t had a video store since I was a tween; it has moved on to the convenience of RedBox machines.  I can immediately think of three locations that have these machines: Wal*Mart (if I’m correct in my remembering, there are two there); CVS Pharmacy (has two sitting beside each other on the sidewalk about twenty feet from the entrance); and Walgreens (has one along the outside wall facing highway 8).  This is the standard with most places I’ve been in recent years.  The day of the video store has passed and, it seems, the machine is here to stay. 
                Where I take issue is with the impersonality of the RedBox machine (and I am only using the machine as an example; it is merely a result of the direction our culture is moving).  These machines are just another part of a current trend in which it is becoming more and more possible for people to go through life without having to deal with each other.  Some would see this as a wonderful advancement; I disagree.  Humanity was engineered to live in society; our spirits crave fellowship.  This also raises another issue which just happens to be the entire point I am currently wishing to address.
                My point is this: I absolutely hate the impersonality our world is moving towards.  Like I said, the RedBox machine is just one example of how our culture is moving to a point where we have less to do with each other.  For discipleship, impersonality is a terrible thing.  I may have never directly stated the following thought, but I have certainly insinuated it: discipleship without personal relationship is certainly not possible.  If we are to create disciples (note that I am speaking of discipleship and not the act of making converts; I’ll touch on this in a footnote), then we must be prepared to form and build personal relationships with the people around us.  How am I to lead a man to spiritual maturity in Christ if I cannot even talk to him?
                We face issue in that as our world becomes more closed to open relationship with each other it becomes more difficult for us to build the relationships necessary for discipleship.  If we are not engaged in discipleship, then we are failing in our purpose as parts of the body of Christ.  If we are failing in our purpose as the body of Christ, according to the scriptures, we are useless in the Kingdom.  Keep in mind the words of Christ during the Sermon on the Mount: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and cast out demons in Your name, and do many mighty works in Your name?’  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”  Remember also the words of James in his letter: “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?  Can that faith save him?  If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?  So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.’”  James continues to make the point that simple intellectual acknowledgment of God being who He is simply is not enough by saying that even the demons know who He is and shudder at His name.  The point in all of this paragraph is that we must be engaged in discipleship and that we are facing ever increasing obstacles to the spread of the Gospel.
                I suppose what bugs me the most is that now it happens so much that it has actually become an issue that people ask each other out, and in cases even begin relationships, without ever having really spoken to one another in person.  How far must we go before we realize that this impersonality is simply insane?  Of all things, even if nothing else in our lives were to be personal, shouldn’t discipleship and relationship with someone who we may spend the rest of our lives with be personal, taken care of in person with real contact and communication and not through text?  To the reader I issue this plea: seek to live your life making relationships with people and not pulling away from society.  If the cause of Christ is to be advanced, then we absolutely must reach out to the world and not confine ourselves from it.

**On the topic of discipleship and how it differs from making converts: the commission given us in Matthew 28 says that we must “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”  The very nature of this command defines more than telling them about the Gospel and seeing them say a prayer and, as we tend to say, “Get saved.”  We must teach them to observe the commands of Christ – that is to say, we must lead them into living the changed life outlined in the scriptures as part of the body of Christ.  Discipleship requires us to pour our lives and our time into the people around us such that they may truly come to know Christ and not just acknowledge who He is.