Suicide: A reflection upon the death of Robin Williams
By Mykel McElwee
I was brought up Catholic. I was taught that suicide was the “unforgivable sin”. I was taught that suicide secured a person going to hell. I’ve also been told that true believers don’t commit suicide. More often than not I hear individuals respond, “Suicide is the epitome of selfishness!” In the past, I have personally responded in like matter. Not the most loving thing to do. When I wield a sword with little concern of whom it might strike I am guilty of behavior that is not demonstrative of a disciple of Christ. In doing so, was I not guilty of judging others (Matt.7)? Is this not the kind of judgment only to be administered by God Himself? As I have matured in my walk with the Lord I am deeply saddened by the depth of deception that Satan can take a person. Suicide is never the answer. What lie brings a person to believe that taking their own life is the best option? In the case of Robin Williams one might fairly say that perhaps he made a deal with the devil and it was simply time to pay up. Maybe. I can certainly argue that nearly all the mega-successful in Hollywood have probably “made a deal with the devil”. Satan offered Jesus the same deal “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”(Matt.4:9) But this “deal” doesn’t always end in suicide. More important: Did Mr. Williams place his faith in Jesus Christ? If not, as it is true for everyone, the final destination is Hell. But before we judge suicide as securing a person entrance into hell I offer the following perspective:
From Ray Comfort on the issue of suicide in light of Robin Williams:
If you believe that those who commit suicide go to Hell, I have a few questions for you. Is there such a thing as “slow” suicide—where someone takes poison over a period of time until it kills them? If you say that there is, then consider the fact that smokers and alcoholics commit suicide when they die because they continually consumed known toxins. What about the person who was told by the doctor to cut back on food or it would kill them, but they took no notice and died because of obesity?
Or how about those dear people who jumped off the World Trade Center? Their clothes caught fire, their flesh burned, and they deliberately leaned forward just a little. Or what about the brave soldier who takes cyanide to end his precious life, rather than be responsible for the deaths of his fellow soldiers by giving information under torture?
There are only a few suicides mentioned in the Bible. Only one makes a reference to his eternal destination. So if we want to play God for a moment on this issue, we could probably do so for Judas. But when it comes to others, we should leave that judgment in the hands of our Creator, and use a little discretion rather than add to the grief of relatives.
So the question that remains: Are confessing Christians excluded from heaven if they commit suicide?
Let’s begin with the “unforgivable sin”: Jesus said, “Anyone who is not with Me is against Me, and anyone who does not gather with Me scatters. Because of this, I tell you, people will be forgiven every sin and blasphemy, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him. But whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the one to come.”(Matt.12:30-32). Suicide is not mention in this Scripture passage.
Jesus was talking specifically to the Pharisees who had personally witnessed his miracle (Matthew 12:22). Rather than acknowledging Jesus was exercising divine powers, the Pharisees attributed his power to Satan (v. 24). Their deliberate refusal to believe, even though knowing the truth, was what Jesus judged as unforgivable sin.
Suicide is murder! Yes, But the Bible is full of examples of murderers who were forgiven. Most notably, Paul and King David.
But a person who commits suicide can’t repent. True, but hasn’t Christ’s death on the cross paid for all of our sins—past, present, and future? If a faithful godly-man married for 40 year commits a grievous sin and cheats on his wife, has remorse, but then dies in a car wreck on his way home, is that sin not forgiven? Or is this man the adulterer who will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9)?
A real Christian will never lose hope. Hope is always found in the Lord. Have you ever misplaced your hope? And, what about those suffering from clinical depression, schizophrenia, bipolarity and other mental illnesses? –excerpt from Ryan Sharp (Can People who commit suicide go to heaven? Holman Christian Study Bible pg.1339)
How quickly we judge the sin of suicide. Leave the judgment to God. Grieve your own sin. Comfort others. Look to the Lord in all you do. “He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Cor. 1:4
2 additional Scripture passages to further reflect on:
“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler who exercises authority over the lower heavens, the spirit now working in the disobedient. We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! Together with Christ Jesus He also raised us up and seated us in the heavens, so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace through His kindness on us in Christ Jesus. For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:1-10
“Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. What the law could not do since it was limited by the flesh, God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending His own Son in flesh like ours under sin’s domain, and as a sin offering, in order that the law’s requirement would be accomplished in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh think about the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, about the things of the Spirit. For the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set of the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit itself to God’s law, for it is unable to do so. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God lives in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. Now if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, then He who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through His Spirit who lives in you.” Romans 8:1-11