T. PIERCE BROWN
Besides what I wrote for etoughtalk.com website, I do not think I have ever written anything significant about suicide. That article was primarily directed toward those who might be contemplating suicide, but I know of none that are directed toward those who are suffering because a loved one has committed suicide and they feel hopeless. One reason they may feel hopeless is that they have heard preachers or others say, “It is evident that a person who commits suicide has committed self murder, and had no time to repent, so there is no doubt that they will suffer in hell.” Such a statement is wrong for at least two reasons. First, it is possible for a person to commit suicide and still have time to repent before he/she dies. We do not need to confuse others and ourselves by thinking of Judas who repented and went out and hanged himself (Matthew 27:3-5), for his repentance is not what is involved in salvation. It is a different word than the one used in Acts 2:38.
Second, for any person to make a statement about a specific person’s final destiny is contrary to God’s word. We may quote a scripture that shows that “All thieves have their part in the lake of fire” (1 Corinthians 6:10), but whether that applies to a little hungry eight year old boy who stole a loaf of bread because he and his family were starving, you do not know. The basic reason is that God judges a person in terms of his ability, responsibility (response ability), knowledge, opportunity and various other factors. Most of us probably understand that a little child has not reached what we commonly call “the age of accountability,” but you do not know when that is.
So, when we look at the case of a person who commits suicide, we do not know whether or not that person was responsible at the time of the act. That person might have a tumor of the brain that caused temporary or permanent insanity. How God will look upon it you do not know, and God did not give you the responsibility of making that decision. If the person was a Christian, you may have a right to assume that the act was not a rational act of sin, but whatever you may assume, you have no right to pass your assumptions off as God’s revealed word.
So, if you are trying to comfort a person who has a loved one who committed suicide, you can at least tell them these truths of which you can be sure. First, God loves that person more than you ever could. He is not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9), so if there is any way that He can justly save that person He will do so. The “bottom line” is that God will always do what is right, regardless of what you may suppose. Since all our suppositions will not change anything about the final destiny of a person, we can put our hope in God who is more merciful and gracious than any of us can grasp. This does not mean we should lie and teach that God’s grace is promised to those who do not obey the gospel and are impenitent. It does mean that the exact nature of any person’s destiny is not in our hands, but God’s.
It may also be of some value to be aware that the Bible teaches that there are degrees of reward or punishment (Luke12:47-48). Even from what we think we know, we can have no hope that God has promised salvation to any specific person, we can know that God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11) and that He will give each of us the best He can justly give.
T. Pierce Brown
1068 Mitchell Ave.