Question: Is suicide always a sentence to hell?


There is, within the church, a group of people that commonly is neglected, overlooked, and seldom discussed. Occasionally they may receive help through a benevolence program, or may be housed in a special shelter for adults, but aside from that, they are quietly and conveniently outcast—not mentioned in sermons, and often unwelcome in church buildings.

They are the mentally ill.

Current estimates reveal that 22.1 percent of Americans ages 18 and older—about 1 in 5 adults—suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, when applied to the U.S. Census residential population estimate, this figure translates to 44.3 million people.

Of these, many can be further diagnosed with severe mental illnesses—those possessing unstable neural chemistry to the degree that the individual is unable to function in society or distinguish right from wrong.

So where do these individuals find themselves in the light of God’s Word? Are they walking “in the light,” or has their lack of obedience to the Gospel caused them to place their immortal souls in danger?

We teach—accurately—that murder is sin and that suicide leaves an individual in a poor relationship with God Who is the Giver of life (Acts 17:25). We correctly teach our young people the importance of not corrupting or physically damaging their physical bodies.

So, what about a person who totally disregards the instructions Paul gave to the Christians at the Corinth in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.”

For instance, what about the precious soul of an individual who is ravaged with a disease such as schizophrenia and who prematurely ends his or her life? Or what about those individuals who bring pain and destruction to their own bodies through an overdose of pills, or a sharp blade against the skin? Are we ready to stand tall in the pulpit and proclaim these individuals lost, just because they appear physically mature?

In evaluating the eternal salvation of these special individuals, we need to assess what ability they possess to obey God’s law. If, in doing so, we deem that they are unable to discern right from wrong, how, then, can we hold them accountable? If the neuronal chemicals responsible for moral conscientiousness are physiologically unstable, then it is beyond the individual’s capability to observe the edicts found in the New Testament.

We commonly hear the phrase “age of accountability” within the church in reference to young people who have traversed from a “safe innocent” state into a position of being responsible to God for their actions. Aside from age and physical maturity, is someone that is mentally handicapped any different from the young child? Neither has the capability of knowing and carrying out the commands of God.

Does that change God’s expectations? No, it does not. God does not change. But does this mental handicap change their status in God’s eyes? Certainly. The mentally ill possess a “safe” status when it comes to their salvation, just as young children do.

Infants and young children have not sinned, and thus have no need for repentance. Thus, as the examples in the New Testament demonstrate, children are not candidates to be buried with Jesus Christ in baptism for the remission of sins. While children do not come into contact with the blood of Jesus Christ, their very nature and innocence affords them safety in the eyes of the Lord.

David, following the death of his son by Bathsheba, informed us that the righteous one-day would meet up with their children. After learning of the child’s death, David stated: “But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:23, emp. added). David knew he one day would see his son again—a son that had been afforded a safe condition in the eyes of the Lord.

The mentally ill are no different from this young child. They, too, are unable to comprehend repentance and the confession of Christ, and as such are not candidates for baptism. However, this does not mean that the mentally ill will spend an eternity in torment. They, like children, have been granted safety in the eyes of God.

Before you rejoice and assume that you, too, are afforded this same safe condition because you’ve been diagnosed with something, we must realize that science delights in naming new syndromes or diseases. This results in medical textbooks that are overflowing with official-sounding ailments. As a result, we have found ourselves diagnosed with horrific sounding syndromes, when in truth our only symptom was a hurt toe, a loss of hair, or intestinal discomfort. But that official “label” is still penned into your medical chart.

This is true with minor mental issues as well. Just because you are now the proud owner of one of those horrible-sounding diseases, does not negate the fact that you still have an obligation to obey Almighty God. The diseases under discussion here are those diseases that affect the mental well-being of an individual to the point that they are incapable of functioning (i.e. schizophrenia, autism, Down’s syndrome, dementia, etc.).

The mentally ill in our community are a very special group of people—a people who possess souls and are important to God. As Christians, we should strive not only to minister to these, God’s children, but also to teach and preach on these things as well.

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