Throughout my professional career as both a college professor and a Christian scholar I have been asked thousands of questions. However, whenever I’m asked about suicide it always strikes an emotional chord deep within me. A close member of my family died by suicide more than 40 years ago when I was just a teenager. My wife also lost a member of her family in the same tragic way.
In this post I’ll make four points about the tragedy of suicide. My central focus will be on the question of whether God forgives this act.
- The Serious Nature of Suicide
To intentionally take one’s life is indeed a sin of great magnitude. Why? Because suicide is self-murder. And what makes murder such a horrific act is not just the stealing of innocent life, but also the fact that all human beings are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26–27). Therefore, murder constitutes an attack upon God himself (Genesis 9:6). To murder another person or one’s self is a serious sin against both human beings and God.
2. Suicide and Mental Illness
According to mental health professionals, taking one’s life is often connected to some form of mental illness. Because of these challenges, those who die by suicide are often not in complete or balanced control of their mental state. This instability factor brings the degree of volitional responsibility for the suicide into question. Christians are not immune to mental health struggles and are susceptible to thoughts of suicide just like anybody else.
3. Suicide and Youth
There is a serious problem in the Western world when it comes to suicide among teenagers and young adults. Unfortunately, for far too many troubled young people, suicide becomes a permanent solution to temporary problems such as substance abuse or untreated depression. “At risk” young people who show signs of suicide risk should receive swift help from parents, doctors, counselors, and pastors.
4. Suicide and Divine Forgiveness
Suicide is unique among the sins of humanity because the person who commits this sin cannot confess it and repent. But does God forgive the sin of suicide?
Nowhere in Scripture does it state or imply that suicide is the unpardonable sin. The only unpardonable sin is committed by those who willfully and permanently reject God’s offer of love in Jesus Christ (John 3:36). Without faith (confident trust and reliance) in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, a person will face God’s just wrath in the afterlife (1 Timothy 2:5–6).
I argue, on the basis of Scripture, that God can and does forgive his children who take their lives. This affirmation of forgiveness in no way condones suicide, which is a great sin. Nevertheless, Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death atones for all the sins of his people—past, present, and future (Romans 3:25). And God will not remove his forgiving love because a mentally ill person in a state of desperation commits a terrible self-destructive deed (Romans 8:38–39). Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ enjoy God’s enduring and complete forgiveness for all their sins (2 Corinthians 5:18–19).
- If you are contemplating suicide, someone at the Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) is available to chat with you right now (24/7).
- Here’s a helpful article on the topic of suicide especially for Christians, “The Truth about Suicide.”
- For more about Christianity and mental health, I recommend Mark P. Cosgrove and James D. Mallory Jr., Mental Health: A Christian Approach.