Suicide in the Church Part 1
By Michael Tummillo
Recently, several suicides have occurred right here in my own hometown of about 16,000 people. The latest of these involved a friend of mine who was, among other things, the leader of a Christian Business Fellowship which I attend. He was a lawyer with a terrific wife, two young kids, very prominent in his church, coached little league baseball. As one can imagine, speculations abound - everything from possible chemical imbalances to unfair, unfounded comments which...well, small town gossip can be so mean-spirited.
These local suicides also have Christians from various camps wondering and discussing what happens after a Christian commits suicide. Some eMails I've received on this subject have included words like "unsettling", "confused" and "disturbing." Since we are the Body of Christ, "a body fitly joined," as Scripture declares, when something happens here, it's happening there. If it hasn't hit your community square in the face just yet, chances are it will.
I'm reminded of the theme song from the TV series "M.A.S.H." It was called "Suicide is painless."
No, it's not. It hurts a lot.
It's hurting me.
Personally, I was raised believing that a Christian who killed themselves received a quick ticket to hell. The concept being that, since murderers would burn in hell, what was suicide but self-murder with absolutely no time for repentance?
Apparently, "Thou shalt not kill" referred even to the killing of oneself. This concept now strikes me as quite silly, for all sins...murder, suicide, gossip, slander, rage, infidelity...are all forgivable by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. By and large, that's pretty standard Christian fare, right? To say otherwise is to imply that the crucifixion had no effect on some particular sins. As my own relationship with God has developed, I am now convinced that, as the Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, "Nothing can separate us from the love of God." The Greek word for 'nothing' can best be defined as ...well, NOTHING!
I found a half dozen cases of suicide in the Bible and the Good Book does not appear to condemn the act. The most notorious accounts were those of King Saul (1 Sam. 31:2-5) and Judas Iscariot (Matt. 27:3-5). Others are Abimelech (Judges 9:50-54), who ordered his armor-bearer to kill him, Samson (Judges 16:23-31), Ahithophel (2 Sam. 17:23), and Zimri (1 Kings 16:15-20). Even Elijah despaired of his own life (1 Kings 18:40; 19:4) and Job's wife told him he'd be better off killing himself (Job 2:7-9).
Far as I can tell, none of these people who went through with it were explicitly condemned for taking his own life.
Most people who take their own lives are not usually cool and rational about it. I doubt many set out to flout the will of God. I've read that 500,000 Americans attempt suicide annually! I must believe that they are not so much choosing death as they are stumbling down into it from a steep slope of despair. Every 17 minutes someone in America commits suicide. This is the third-leading cause of death among people 15 to 25 years old, college students for the greater part. Even more tragically, among children between 5 and 14 years of age, suicide is the sixth most common cause of death.
Something's VERY wrong.
People are hurting everywhere. we know this because, after all, hurting people are hurting people everywhere we turn. People need help. Maybe someone you know of, someone who puts up a pretty good front at work or even at Church, or even in your home, needs something more than a handshake or a pat on the back.
Love, after all, is spelled T-I-M-E.
So, give someone your attention today. Ask "How are you?" and pause, look them in the eye and await their response. Say their names in conversation and drop them an encouraging eMail. Every one of us is a potential lifesaver. As life guards are taught to handle drowning victims, let them kick and scream and thrash about, but let's all try and be there when they decide they just can't swim another stroke.
Pastor Michael has been broadcasting messages of Discipleship & Encouragement to the Body of Christ by email since 1999. Since then these messages have been published on numerous other sites, reprinted in paper newsletters belonging to other ministries, have been used as a source of teaching and preaching by ministers and Bible teachers worldwide, and have ministered to the Body of Christ of nearly every major denomination.