The big news of late has been the tragic suicide of Rick Warren’s 27 year old son. While the focus of the coverage has been on the hateful response of some, it does raise a common question; what does happen to Christians who commit suicide?
One common misconception is that everyone who kills themselves goes to hell. The logic behind this idea is this:
Suicide is murder and thus a sin. As the person is now dead they cannot repent for the sin that killed them. Therefore it is impossible for people who commit suicide to get into heaven.
This reasoning is based on a misunderstanding of how forgiveness works and what repentance is.
First, repentance is a change on the mind. The Greek word used in the Bible is a combination of two words, metamorphosis and mind, so to change your mind. Repentance is necessary to get saved, to realise you need a saviour and to come to the conclusion that Jesus is that saviour. To realise the old way of life is inferior to the new way being offered to you.
Once someone accepts the free gift of salvation, the do not need to keep getting forgiveness. It isn’t based on a per sin transaction. They don’t sin, repent, get forgiven. They are forgiven. Period. Every sin ever sinned or ever going to be sinned.
That isn’t to say repentance isn’t necessary for the Christian walk. We are to walk as children of light, we grow in wisdom and understanding. As we do, as we know God more, we turn from the old modes of thought and turn to God’s way of thinking. We stop the things that hurt us and those around us, sin, and behave more and more like the righteous children of God that we are.
This brings us to the debate whether a person can lose their salvation, which would be another topic. But a single sin, wiping out their decision to follow Jesus? It’s frankly preposterous.
Especially in light of the fact that someone must be hopelessly suffering or mentally ill. Maybe ones’ opinion on that reflects more their idea of how good God is.
It comes to this: We are saved by grace through faith. Grace is what Jesus did, it is not dependent on us at all. If the Old Covenant was sufficient to save, the writer of Hebrews tells us, a New Covenant would never have been needed. The Old is based on works. The New is based on faith. It is grace that saves us, we take hold of it by faith. Our salvation is not dependant on our works at all. It is based on the finished work of the cross. The only thing that separates the lost from the found is who accepts that grace.
If there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation, what can we do to lose it? A momentary lapse in the midst of despair? A single sin not repented of? Christians have no unforgiven sins, they were all forgiven 2000 years ago.
What happens to Christians who take their own life? The same thing that happens to Christians that die by accident or disease.