by C Michael PattonMarch 21st, 2012 111 Comments
Here is an email question that I received with the response to follow:
Good Afternoon: I am writing to you under emotional pangs, as I wrestle with the Scriptures, and what I hear from certain others who are Christian.
The husband of a friend of mine committed suicide. My friend, I know well, and her love and defense of the Scriptures. But I only know of her husband’s belief by what she tell me, and his attendance to church. She said he prayed a lot and loved God, her and their children.
But he yielded to suicide. And from what I understand, this was a long term fight to avoid that. He subsequently said he was going for walk, and he was found in a park, after shooting himself.
Here is a man who “claimed” to love Jesus, but his actions to me, deny his having made Jesus Lord and Master over his life. Rather, he must have had Satan as master.
I used to believe in “free will” but after a long study of the Sovereignty of God, I changed my mind. That study took several years. So I can’t say this man had free will unless he remains outside of God’s Lordship, where he does what the flesh does…. denies the power, promises, and love that God has living within us.
The pastor at the services said what my friend said, he is in heaven, due to the Grace of God.
But how can a person be tempted to kill himself then actually follow through with it, if he has Life in him? And Hope. These reign over Death and Hell.
Thanks for the questions. These are very good questions, and necessary to struggle with.
You said: “But how can a person be tempted to kill himself then actually follow through with it, if he has Life in him?”
How could David have killed Uriah? How could Peter have denied Christ? How could John have fallen down and worshiped an angel? How could Paul struggle with sin the way he does in Roman 7? Why would Paul exhort Christians to “walk in the spirit and therefore not carry out the deeds of the flesh” if it was a foregone conclusion that Christians cannot walk in the flesh? How could the Galatians (whom Paul considers “brethren”) have turned back toward the law after knowing Christ? How could the Corinthians live as spiritual babes, living in strife, jealously, and envy?
The answer: we are all sinners.
My sister committed suicide. She had been with me at seminary and was one of my primary means of encouragement throughout my younger ministry years. She was a prayer warrior, an aspiring evangelist, and one of the most generous people I have ever known. She fell into depression—terrible depression. Depression is a powerful result of the fall that ends up taking a lot of people’s lives. What she did was sin. Yes, it was premeditated as well.
What sins, in actuality, are not premeditated? There are not many . . . mainly personality and spirituality characteristics such as outbursts of anger, jealousy, and faithlessness. But most other sins are premeditated. If God does not forgive premeditated sins—if somehow these are the sins that are not covered by the cross—we are all in trouble.
Some may say that all sins have to be confessed before death. Roman Catholics, in fact, distinguish between mortal and venial sins. Mortal sins are those that you cannot have on your soul at death. They are the really bad ones like murder, pride, adutery, using birth control, or missing Mass without a valid excuse. Traditionally, suicide has also been among these, since suicide is a murder which is impossible to confess.
However, I disagree. While I do not believe that all sin is equal in God’s sight, there is no biblical reason to say that there are some sins that destroy the grace of God and need special penance and others that don’t. To say that we cannot have unconfessed sin when we die is problematic in many ways. Biblically, Paul is clear that once we have faith in Christ we have been saved. This salvation is primarily from the ultimate penalty of our sin—eternal death. If we cannot truly be saved until we die with all sins confessed, then we cannot ever say that we are saved as Paul does. The best we can do is say we might be saved (i.e., if I die without any unconfessed sin). Salvation would always have to be spoken of as a contingent possibility, not a present reality. Yet Paul says to the Ephesians, “By grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:8). Christ says in John 6:24, “Whoever believes in me has eternal life.” There is no contingency here. The question becomes, Do you really believe, and will that belief persevere (another question, another time)?
The practical problem is this: If you do have to die without any unconfessed sin, how are you to be spiritually aware enough to know of all your sins? What if you forget one? What about the time you sped through the school zone? What about the time you pridefully thought about your promotion at work? What about the time you envied your neighbor’s new sprinkler system? What about the time you said you were sick, to avoid something, and you really weren’t? From a practical standpoint, everyone will die with unconfessed sin. Most of these will include serious sins such as greed, pride, and envy. Are we all then bound for hell? This trivializes the cross, forgiveness, and sin.
Christ’s death is a once-for-all remedy to our damnation. Because of this grace and forgiveness we should live a life that is pleasing to him, but some of us won’t do so well. That is what makes grace so wonderful and radical—indeed, beyond belief.
I don’t know whether the gentleman who went on a walk in the park was a Christian or not (my heart hurts just thinking of his walk), but I do know that the cross of Christ redeems us from all sin, no matter how severe, no matter how much premeditation. Were suicide less traumatic, were it just a push of the button, I doubt that there is any who would escape the temptation (we probably would not make it through our teen years!). Have mercy on this man. What he did was sin. What he did will have terrible and lasting consequences (just like any murder), but to think that this necessarily means he was not a Christian is unbiblical and well beyond our ability to judge.
The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses (present tense; 1 John1:7) us from all sin, not just some sins.
Hope that is helpful.
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