Suicide, Heaven and Hell
On December the fourth of last year Maison Hullibarger took his own life. He was 18. At his funeral the priest said suicide is a sin from which one cannot seek forgiveness and is unforgiveable. Jeff and Linda Hullibarger, Maison’s parents, were outraged at the priest’s suggestion that their son did not go to heaven.
Emotions are understandably raw in the midst of such deep and personal tragedy. There are some who say anyone who takes his or her own life is damned, but I am reticent to agree. I can see where someone in the grip of profound pain, be it physical, emotional, or spiritual, may be deceived and driven into thinking death is the only option.
The subject of suicide is not addressed directly anywhere in the Bible. But that does not mean we are left completely in the dark.
Some scholars claim suicide is self-murder, but that has always seemed to be a strained application of the Sixth Commandment to me. Yet to the degree one’s rationality is unimpaired and an act of the will, suicide can never be said to be an act of faith, and is in that respect a sin.
To me the greater question would be, is it forgivable? Some argue, as the priest did here, since one cannot ask forgiveness after killing oneself it is damnable. That position seems just as strained to me as the idea of self-murder; that is, that our forgiveness is more dependent on our request for it than on God’s mercy.
I think the grace of God extends to the one whose extreme circumstances may render him confused and irrational enough to do something in a thoughtless moment of desperation he would not normally consider. So, hell is not the default destination, but neither can we say heaven is assured to the one who takes his own life. So where does that leave us?
After God reveals to Abraham He is about to investigate the outcry from Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham, aware his nephew Lot and his family reside in Sodom, asks God, “Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” Abraham employing a rhetorical question assures God he knows He will do what is right, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?”
While this narrative is not about suicide, it does reveal to us the just nature of a Holy God who will in every situation do what is right for every person. Since the Scriptures do not condone the practice, neither should we, lest we encourage it, nor should we condemn what the Scriptures do not condemn lest we rob others of their hope in a merciful God.
God knows what is in the heart and mind at the moment of one who takes his own life, and He is an omniscient and benevolent God. It is the best that I can say with a clear conscience, but it is the best anyone could hope for.