“Nothing can ever separate us from God’s love” is a common statement said in Christian churches all over the world. And the statement itself is presumably taken from Scripture, Romans chapter 8, verse 38. It is a core verse used by Calvinists and those who ascribe to the Doctrine of Eternal Security, a false doctrine that says that believers are saved because of a profession of faith and prayer from years ago, whether or not their lives reflect their faith. “Once Saved, Always Saved” (OSAS) has been viewed by some as saying the above statement instead of Eternal Security, but both say the same thing: you can’t fall away from salvation once you’re saved. Some would say “a person that is truly saved” can’t fall away, but then and again, I disagree with them: you’re either saved or not. There’s no such thing as a “falsely saved person.” And the Scriptures themselves are not written to “folks playing church” or “unbelievers masquerading as believers,” but instead, to believers, to saints, to those who are “in Christ,” to those who belong to the Lord.
This month, Romans 8:38 came to the forefront again when I heard about the death of 30-year-old Christian Pastor Jarrid Wilson, who took his own life. I heard about his death on September 11th, a tragic day in our nation’s history that I remember from 18 years ago. I still remember where I was when I heard that the airplanes had hit our Twin Towers. I still remember the shock of that evening watching the news and discovering that I wasn’t so safe in America anymore. I remember the same feeling when I arrived at college the following year and was too afraid to “Study Abroad” at UNC-Chapel Hill for fear of my life. Only in the wake of 9/11 did I feel so vulnerable, as though anything could happen to me if I walked outside my door.
And on that same day, 18 years later, I read that a Christian Pastor, author, husband, and father of two took his own life after having battled suicidal thoughts for most of it. And he killed himself the day before that, on September 10, 2019, on the annual observance of National Suicide Awareness Day (NSAD) in America. September 10th and September 11th can put anyone in a depressed mood, honestly. And then reading about this dear Pastor and his story had me to a point where it was hard to sleep that night. I sat up reading the news articles about his life, to discover any little detail about him I could, to read more and more of his story to analyze in my mind how someone with such potential and such calling on his life could be moved to take his life in a final act that was so unexpected.
And I tried to put it out of my mind, honestly. Suicide is tragic, but Christian suicide saddens me even more because, as I expected, atheists took to social media to laugh at Christianity. “They’re gonna say that we have no more hope than they do.” That’s what I said about the atheists who were pointing out that if a Christian Pastor could commit suicide, no Christian could have any more hope than him.
And yet, I just can’t put it out of my mind. So, it is in the spirit of trying to warn my Christian brothers and sisters about suicide’s earthly and eternal tragedies that I write this post today.
Romans 8:38 and Christian Suicide
I read some days ago that the church’s Senior Pastor quoted Romans 8:38 when referring to this young Christian Pastor and his life. And the same Pastor used the verse once again at the deceased Pastor’s funeral. “I believe Jarrid Wilson is in Heaven. He put his faith in Christ, and Romans 8:38 reminds us that nothing will ever separate us from the Love of God. One dark moment in a Christian’s life cannot undo what Christ did for us on the cross. When you stand before God, you won’t be judged by the last thing you did before you died but by the last thing Jesus did when He died,” the Senior Pastor said.
It’s understandable that Romans 8:38 would be used with reference to the passing of a Christian, but the question comes down to the following: “can we use the verse in the case of Christian Suicide?” The answer is not as clear as the senior pastor above makes it out to be.
Romans 8:38 says “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Eternal Securitists or advocates of Eternal Security (ES) love to harp on “nothing…shall be able to separate us from the love of God,” but what they forget is the end of that verse: “the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The love of God in discussion here in Romans 8 is Jesus Christ. Paul is saying that our circumstances cannot separate us from Jesus Christ.
The reason why our circumstances cannot separate us is because our circumstances don’t place us in Christ. We come to Christ by faith, and we stand or fall by our faith (Romans 11:20-22). We can only leave Christ if we “throw away our confidence,” Paul says and warns against in Hebrews 10:35-39. So our circumstances, no matter how terrible they may be, cannot separate us from Jesus because only our unbelief can do that. Faith in Jesus saves, and throwing away faith in Jesus condemns. Only by faith are we joined to Christ in The Great Marriage of Salvation, and only by unbelief can we commit apostasy, what C.S. Lewis calls “The Great Divorce.”
If you’re depressed, know that your depression can’t separate you from Jesus and the love of God. If you’re naked and have no clothes or are homeless with nowhere to go and no food to eat, you’re still joined to God’s love. If you’re unemployed and can’t find work, you’re still joined to God’s love. If you’re a child of God who’s lost your husband or wife to divorce, you’re still joined to God’s love. You still have the love of God if you’ve believed on His name and hold on to your faith. As long as you’re believing, you can’t be separated from God’s love that is in Jesus Christ.
But does that include suicide?
Does Romans 8:38 apply to Christian Suicide?
Having seen what Paul says and the context of Scripture regarding it, a new question surfaces: “Does Romans 8:38 apply to Christian Suicide?” Is it possible that Paul was saying that, “even suicide cannot separate you from God’s love?”
No, the words of Romans 8:38 do not include suicide because suicide is a decision, not a circumstance. The list of circumstances there in Romans 8:38 concern “death, life, angels, principalities, things present, things to come, height, depth, or any created thing.” And in Romans 8:35, Paul mentions circumstances such as “tribulation,” “distress,” “persecution,” “famine,” “nakedness,” “peril,” or “sword.” In times of distress and sadness, we tend to think that God is far away from us. When our life’s circumstances are tough and we find ourselves struggling to survive, we can often think that God is punishing us. Job’s friends believed the same thing about him, that he was struggling because he’d done something wrong — but that was erroneous and absolutely not true. And it isn’t true for us today. When the circumstances of our lives are tough, we can’t just assume “God’s beating me up, God’s getting me back because of my sin.” Often, we’re being persecuted for His name sake, because we belong to Him — not because we’re so far away from Him.
Depression is a state in which we find ourselves. The situations of life can depress anyone. I had suicidal thoughts myself at age 9 and had decided to go through with it. And then, the Lord told me to put away those thoughts because I had too much to live for. He had a plan and purpose for my life, and suicide was the exact opposite of that. If I took myself out of this world, I’d never fulfill the purpose and call on my life. And The Essential Church wouldn’t be here today if I’d gone through with it.
Depression, like nakedness, peril, persecution, and other circumstances can tend to make us think God has abandoned us. But He hasn’t; He is always near to His children. We can call on Him and know that He is there with us, in the direst of circumstances. I say that, knowing He’s with me, even as my bank account is currently in the “red” (negative bank balance), I can barely work for a living, and my granddad and I survive daily on $48 worth of food stamps. And some of you have it worse than me and him.
What is Suicide?
What is suicide? We must answer this question to properly assess whether Romans 8:38 pertains to Christian Suicide as a circumstance or not. Suicide is self-murder, a killing of oneself, to terminate one’s own life, regardless of reason. There are all sorts of reasons, but most reasons pertain to mental and emotional anguish that persist for a long time, sometimes years and even up until the suicide act itself.
There are some instances where suicide occurs because of a lack of mental awareness, the influence of medications, and so on, and in such cases, one cannot state with confidence that the decision was intentional. Intentional suicides (deliberate plans to terminate life) do happen, though, and it is those that are the subject of this post.
What is Christian Suicide?
The Scriptures apply to the Christian, the believer, the child of God, and they are the child of God’s authority in every situation. So, when answering the question “What is Christian Suicide?,” we must consult Scripture to discover what it is.
On a basic level, Christian Suicide is when a Christian, a person who professes faith in Jesus Christ, takes his or her own life. When we look at Scripture, Christian Suicide is uncharacteristic of believers, unbiblical, and against God because no Christian in Scripture ever took his or her own life. Christians often compare Judas and Peter to one another, but one can look at Judas and Peter and see a contrast in their responses to grief: Peter weeps when he denies Jesus (Luke 22:54-62); Judas gives the money back, then hangs himself (Matthew 27:3-5). Godly sorrow leads us to repentance and leads us to mourn our sin, not take our lives because of it. When a person mourns their circumstances to the point that he or she commits (or completes) suicide, that person isn’t under godly sorrow, but the influence of Satan. And Satan comes to us all in our times of deep sorrow, but we do not have to listen to his voice or his lies. We have a choice to turn away and seek hope in Jesus Christ.
So, to use Romans 8:38, our circumstances do not separate us from Christ, but our circumstances can move us to throw away our faith in Christ — and our lives.
Does Suicide Separate Us From Christ? An Examination of Luke 4:9-12
I’ve said that suicide isn’t one of the circumstances of Romans 8 because suicide (intentional) is a decision a person makes on their own; it isn’t akin to being a homicide victim at the hands of someone else, but rather, a deliberate personal choice to take one’s own life. So, if we hypothetically assume suicide is on the list of Romans 8, or can be interpreted as such, then we shouldn’t find anything against suicide in Scripture, right?
Well, we do find something against suicide. Our own Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is tempted with suicide and resists Satan. Let’s examine Luke 4:
9 Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. 10 For it is written:‘He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you,’
11 and,‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ”
12 And Jesus answered and said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’ ” (Luke 4:9-12, NKJV)
Here in Luke 4:9, we read Satan tell Jesus “throw Yourself down from here,” a reference to suicide. If Jesus had thrown Himself off the temple, He would’ve killed Himself and forfeited His mission as Savior of the world. Just think: He made a choice to resist Satan, and our souls benefit from His resistance.
Satan quoted from Scripture to tempt Jesus to commit suicide, to throw Himself off the temple, but our Lord was a better interpreter of Scripture than he was. Instead of doing what Satan said, Jesus gave Satan the word: “It has been said, ‘you shall not tempt the Lord your God,'” a statement that comes from the Old Testament passage of Deuteronomy 6:16. The action of suicide, to throw Himself off the temple, would’ve been 1) impulsive, 2) it would put God to the test, provoke the Lord to anger, and 3) would show God that Jesus didn’t have confidence in who He was, that He had to “prove” His identity.
But Jesus wasn’t destined to prove His identity by doing an impulsive act, like jumping off the temple; He was to prove His Messiahship by dying on the cross for the sins of all mankind. Satan wanted to get Jesus to kill Himself to forfeit His mission. And the same Satan that wanted Jesus to forfeit His mission wants you to forfeit yours too — by convincing you that suicide is the only way out and that there’s no other solution. But there is.
Christian Suicide Is Presumptuous
I want to conclude this long study by saying that Christian Suicide is presumptuous: it presumes that those who do it, for whatever reason, want to avoid the pain of living, thinking that they’ll “end up in the arms of Jesus.” But you won’t: by provoking the Lord and putting God to the test, suicidal persons who complete the act throw themselves into eternity, before the judgment seat of a just God. And for all they know, the sentence could be Hell fire instead of Heaven forever.
We are to never presume anything, but to live out our faith as God has told us to in His Word. Suicide is not a circumstance in which we find the love of God, for Jesus tells us that the act itself is putting the Lord God to the test.
The question I have on my mind in such cases as completed suicide is, “Did the Christian die in faith?” According to Romans 8, where we find that our circumstances can’t separate us from God’s love because we’re in Jesus, and Jesus’ words in Luke 4, suicide is not an act of faith, for it wants to make God do something to prove His existence. God doesn’t need to prove anything. He has sent Jesus to die on the Cross for our sins and raised Him from the dead for our justification. If He didn’t spare His Son, but delivered Him up for us all, what more need God do to prove how much He loves us?
Some do not commit or complete suicide to force God to prove Himself, but suicide is a meaningless act that leads to death, and sorrow for loved ones left behind. Additionally, the one who dies has failed to fulfill his or her purpose on this earth for which he or she was created. And remember, Christian suicidal persons who complete the act of suicide must give an account for everything they’ve done in the body, whether good or bad — including suicide (2 Corinthians 5:10).
What will the Christian say to God when at the judgment seat and asked about his or her choice to take their own life and cut off their years earlier than God’s intent? How will quoting Romans 8:38 make the encounter any less wrathful?
Note: If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “home” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.