Does a Christian who commits suicide go to heaven?
One reason Christians ask this question is because of the Roman Catholic teaching about mortal and venial sins. Venial sins, they teach, are slight sins in that they injure the relationship to God, but mortal sins sever it and unless there is final confession the individual continues eternally separated from God. Obviously in the case of suicide there can be no confession and so Catholics teach that the one who commits suicide does not go to heaven.
Some Christians avoid the question with convenient theological twisting. They say a true believer wouldn’t commit suicide. And the proof that they were not saved in the first place is in the fact that they committed suicide. Apart from an ignorance of suicide in general, these folks are ignorant of how we are saved and kept.
The key question is: Are we saved and kept by our works or by the grace of God through the work of Christ?
Ephesians 2:1-10 makes it clear that we were dead in our sins, but our merciful God made us alive with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavens. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (vv. 8-9 NIV).
Titus 3:5 says “…he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”
Some would argue yes we are saved by grace, but we are kept by our works. And since suicide is an evil work, we are lost. But Jesus said it was He who is holding onto us, not us holding onto Him. “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28).
If works saved then one would expect that where works are minimal, one would be lost. But Paul teaches that at the judgment some believers will be saved “yet so as by fire” because they only have minimal good works to show for their life. They still make it into heaven (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).
While we have a responsibility to do good works even those are the result of God’s Spirit working in us. Believers are kept secure not because of their works, but because of what Christ has done and continues to do in and through us by His Spirit.
Is there anything then—including suicide—that can separate us from the love of God and His salvation? Not according to Romans 8:38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
But does this mean that since a Christian who commits suicide won’t go to hell we can relax and not worry so much about it? No. We need to understand the factors, which can lead to suicide and realize that Christians may suffer from factors contributing to suicide as much as a non-Christian. Being a Christian doesn’t make us immune from things going wrong.
More pointedly, approximately 90 per cent of those who commit suicide have a psychological disorder.1 Among those, depression is more common than any other disorder. Christians need to realize that psychological disorders including depression are not a sin.
Instead of continuing in ignorance we need to educate ourselves on the signs, symptoms, and treatments of suicidal people. We need to provide them with loving help and resources that will give them hope.
The Gospel is a message of hope. But sometimes things can get very dark in a believer’s life and in the dark hope is lost. Let’s live up to our calling to be lights and help them recover their hope.
I hope this helps.
1 Health at a Glance, Suicide rates: An overview. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82-624-Xby Tanya Navaneelan. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-624-x/2012001/article/11696-eng.htm. Last accessed May 30, 2013.