Not long ago, I took a leisurely stroll with a young friend along a “people path” in my neighborhood. We paused and watched some ducks circling the pond beyond the log fence.
“Is suicide the unforgivable sin?” he asked.
I was taken aback. I didn’t know what to say or how to say it. I needed more time to formulate what the Bible says and doesn’t say about the subject of suicide. But I couldn’t wait to respond. He seemed urgent.
I looked at his face, trying to read what he was saying in the lines of his forehead.”Why do you ask?”
He turned away.
“I have a friend who was the first person to share Christ with me. Until about a month ago, I would say she had the strongest faith of anyone I know. Then suddenly she started doing strange things. One day, she scrubbed her church’s gymnasium floor with a tooth brush. The next two days, she didn’t get out of bed or allow anyone in her room. Then, she did a group project herself and got an A- . She broke into wailing tears as she asked each person in the group for forgiveness. Finally, at Youth Group, the pastor was talking about hospitality; she interrupted with a 20 minute lecture on God’s eternal judgement. They had to gently guide her out of the room.”
That night she overdosed on her parents’ medication. They took her to the hospital, pumped her stomach and revived her. She spent a couple nights on the psych unit, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and given some pills to keep her emotions under control. I visited her yesterday. She looked like a dead soul. I told her I was praying for her. She shot a look straight through me.
‘Don’t bother. I’ve committed the unforgivable sin. God has turned his back on me. Forever.’
So, is she right?” he asked.
He looked back over at me. I reached down for a stone and threw it into the pond.
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What would you say? Does suicide and/or attempted suicide permanently remove us from God’s presence? I don’t think so. More than this, I don’t think this is what the Bible teaches. There is one and only one unforgivable sin and that is “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 12:31) Many have debated the meaning of that phrase, but in context, there is nothing to suggest it is suicide.
God may turn his back on us for a season, but God’s own are never beyond his grasp. As Paul writes to the Romans, he assures them:
Romans 8:37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Nothing, nothing we do in life (such as an attempted suicide); nothing we do that leads to death (like ending our own lives); nothing can prevent God from reaching out to his hurting children and bringing us back to life or giving us new life in the kingdom of heaven.
This is the hope of Christ we have to share with the hopeless. God does NOT want us to tell a desperate soul on a dangerous cliff that if they jump, they will go straight to hell. We are not the ones to determine that. God is. Our job is to weep with those who weep, to comfort the afflicted, to show the compassion of Christ, who does not break a bruised reed, or snuff out a dimly burning wick.