As I sat down tonight to write an update post about what a crazy month July has been and how it has kept me from updating as much as I would like, I received a phone call that changed ALL of my plans.
I won’t go into any kind of sordid detail here (it taints the picture, distracts from the point and invades the privacy of my friend’s family) so don’t read further down for it because you won’t find it. Tonight, I received news that a friend of mine who had only very recently accepted Christ was found dead today. The coroner’s report will read suicide; it will be incorrect.
I have long struggled with the issue of suicide. When I was a teen I contemplated it while sitting in the dark listening to sad songs (who didn’t, right?). But it was always the issue itself from a Christian perspective that has befuddled me. I didn’t know what to do with it. I didn’t know how to answer when people asked.
There are those in Christendom who say that suicide is a mortal sin and, therefore, unpardonable. There are those who say that anyone who could be so foolish as to take their own life are obviously mocking God. Some question when professing Christians, like my friend, perform such a heinous act if they could even be Christians at all because “the soul who has known the forgiving grace, unmerited favor and limitless love of God would never end his own life, and one who did must, by all rights, not be a Christian in the first place.” (Yes, that’s a legitimate quote, but I won’t cite it just in case the preacher who said it has come to his senses and doesn’t want to be embarrassed by something he said in a moment of obvious and glaring stupidity.)
I confess that, for a very long time, I had no answers to give… but now I do. And, like so many revelations I have received while not knowing that I was looking for one, this one came from a combination of Bible Study induced questioning and a great movie. I was studying John’s gospel several years ago when I read:
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. – John 10:27-30
My initial pondering was one of how this impacted the “eternal security” debate. Then my wife and I decided to see the movie Luther. In this film there is a series of scenes wherein Luther interacts with a young man who is obviously depressed, but, for reasons we are not told, will not respond to Luther’s outreach. One day the young man (a boy, really) is found hanging in the scaffolds near the church. Luther has him brought down and insists the boy be buried in the church’s cemetery. (This scene is fictional, but it conveys much of what happened in Luther’s understanding of God’s grace.) When confronted by the parishioners that the boy had committed a mortal sin and , therefore could not be buried in holy ground, Luther responded this way:
Some people say that according to God’s justice, this boy is damned because he took his life. I say it was overcome by the devil. Is this child any more to blame for the despair that overtook him than an innocent man who is murdered by a robber in the woods?
When these two ideas conjoined in my head, I knew I had an answer to the question of suicide. Plainly, suicide is no indicator of faith or salvation, much less the lack thereof.
And that is why the coroner’s report will be wrong. Because, you see, my friend is as much the victim of murder as any who meets their death at the hands of an enemy. Be sure, my friend was murdered. And it is the intent of his truest enemy to see as many of us dead as possible. We’re told over and over in the Bible, both implicitly and explicitly that Satan wants us dead. It is his primary motivation. Today, my friend’s family suffers for it, and we are all diminished.
But more than anything, we should be filled with a righteous anger, because, while this murder hits close to home for me, how many deaths have gone unnoticed by me, or by the members of my church, or by the Church at large? No, let us be furious, not at those who take their lives by their own hand but at the hand of the one who drives them to that act of desperation in the first place!
In closing, to all who might disagree with me on this issue, I say this: You have every right to be wrong. (That’s a joke, I love you Dr. Horton.) In truth, I say this, seek God in prayer and see what He would tell you. And, finally, consider these thoughts from the great C.H. Spurgeon, in his sermon “The Security of Believers; Or, Sheep Who Shall Never Perish”:
Some one wickedly said, “They may get out of his hand themselves.” But how can this be true, when the first sentence is, “They shall never perish”? Treat Scripture honestly and candidly, and you will admit that the promise “they shall never perish” shuts out the idea of perishing by going out of the Lord’s hand by their own act and deed. “They shall never perish; neither shall any pluck them out of my hand.” Who is to loosen the clasp of that hand which was pierced with the nail for me? My Lord Jesus bought me too dearly ever to let me go. He loves me so well that his whole omnipotence will work with that hand, and unless there is something greater than Godhead, I cannot be plucked away from that dear, fastholding grip.
Go with God, D.W. To be absent from the body is, after all, to be present with the Lord.