One of the horrors we can experience as human beings is to hear that a loved one has decided to take their own life. Suicide provokes many unanswered questions. It also stirs guilty feelings as family and friends wonder if there is something else, they could have done to prevent such tragic loss of life. One pertinent question that I often hear, especially, among Christians is what will happen to the soul of the departed? The question arises knowing that the sixth commandment in Exodus 20:13 prohibits taking away of our own life or the life of our neighbor unjustly (Westminsiter Shorter Catechism Q & A 69). Does then the soul of a Christian who commits suicide go to heaven after breaking the sixth commandment?
To answer this question, we need first to understand who a Christian is. In doing so, it is also important to distinguish between a Christian and a church member. Not all church members are Christians but a Christian will surely be a church member. So, a Christian is a person who has come to be convinced by God’s word and Spirit that he is a sinner not necessarily because he commits sin but was born a sinner and inherited the guilt of our first parents, Adam and Eve (Rom. 5:12; Psalm 51:5). Further, a Christian is the one who has repented of his sin and believes that he is accepted before God because of Jesus Christ who kept the whole law on his behalf and yet died on the cross also on his behalf that the Christian might be counted as righteous before God (1 Peter 3:18).
When Christ died on the cross, he died for every sin of every Christian. This includes the actual sins that the Christian committed in the past, he is committing now, and those he will commit in the future. Every one of these sins, not in part but the whole, was nailed to the cross with Christ; therefore, a Christian never bears its guilt anymore (1 John 2:2). Of course, when a Christian sins, God is displeased and disciplines him (Hebrews 12:5-11) but God can never condemn the Christian because God already condemned his own Son, Jesus Christ, for those sins (Romans 8:1). This is why the cross of Christ is the greatest demonstration of God’s power, and his saving grace is so amazing. Without the cross and grace none of us would make it to heaven.
On a pastoral note, let me emphasize that suicide is not a solution to any problem that one might be facing. It is a heinous sin and causes untold pain and misery to the loved ones left behind. We should never forget that Christ remains our only refuge and help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1) hence we are to cast our cares upon him for he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). If you, dear reader, are experiencing depression or feeling like you are in an impossible situation, please seriously consider talking to someone, especially those who know God’s word and teach it faithfully. The word of God is sufficient to bring light into our darker situations and offer hope that is found in no other than Christ alone.