Throughout my professional career as both a college professor and a Christian apologist 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 committed suicide more than 30 years ago when I was just a teenager.
In this article I will address some common factors relating to the phenomenon of suicide. However, the central focus will be on the question of whether God forgives this act.
Allow me to make four points about this sensitive topic:
- The Serious Nature of Suicide: To intentionally take one’s life is indeed a sin of great magnitude. Why is that? 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 or one’s self is a serious sin against both human beings and God.
- 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 commit 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 suffering with significant mental health issues and therefore believers in Christ are sometimes listed among the ranks of those who commit suicide.
- 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 what are really only temporary problems in life. “At risk” young people who show signs of suicide should receive swift help from parents, doctors, counselors, and pastors.
- Suicide and Divine Forgiveness: Suicide is unique among the sins of humanity because it is an act of which the person who commits it cannot confess 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 commit suicide. This affirmation of forgiveness in no way condones suicide, which as I have noted above, 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 sick person in a state of desperation commits a terrible self-destructive deed (Romans 8:37). Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ enjoy God’s enduring and complete forgiveness for all their sins (2 Corinthians 5:18–19).
For more about Christianity and mental health, I recommend the book Mental Health: A Christian Approach by Mark P. Cosgrove and James D. Mallory Jr.