Continuing my discussion of suicide from last week, I would like to ask two questions regarding the topic. First, is suicide a sin? And, two, is it unforgivable?
Yes, suicide is a sin. Although Scripture never explicitly states, “Suicide is a sin,” Christians have historically seen the fifth commandment as a prohibition of the act. In the 5th century, Augustine astutely observed that this commandment states, “You shall not murder,” not “You shall not murder your neighbor.” In other words, the fifth commandment is not limited to people murdering other people, but even to people murdering themselves (i.e., suicide). While psychological disorders may diminish the responsibility of the one who dies by suicide, Christians should maintain their historical belief that suicide displeases God.
No, suicide is not an unforgivable sin. Scripture does mention an unforgivable sin. Jesus states, “Blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven” (Matt 12:31. This unforgivable sin might be what Heb 6:4–6 and 1 John 5:16b speak of, as well). Jesus gives no indication that “the blaspheme the Holy Spirit” is suicide. The context indicates that this sin is to attribute the clear work of God to the devil. Neither in Matt 12 nor in all of Scripture is suicide is referred to as an unforgivable sin. Rather than from Scripture, suicide as unforgivable dates to Thomas Aquinas in the Middle Ages.
Suicide is a forgivable sin. Christ’s atoning work on the cross is sufficient to save Christians who died by suicide. We can rest in the grace of God for those Christians who have died by suicide. In next week’s “From Pulpit and Paper,” I will explore how Christians extend grace to those who have been affected by suicide.