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.

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