Thursday, August 18, 2011

Response: Suicide and Eternity

Anonymous said...

How do you feel about suicide and heaven? If you repent before you well do the deed do you still get into heaven?????
August 18, 2011 2:50 PM

I will say, I appreciate your comment more than you could know. I also must note--I am just a human, with human knowledge, dealing with real human problems. I will begin more traditionally by sharing some of the specific places the Text deals with these issues… but then I will follow up with what the entire narrative--within the full context of how I understand the story of God and His creation-- tells my heart.

There are seven recorded instances of suicide in the Bible. Probably the two most well-known occurrences are the acts of Judas Iscariot (the one that betrayed Jesus, recorded in the synoptic gospels) and Samson (the Jewish judge that was essentially the ancient-equivalent of the 9/11 bombers, recorded in the book of Judges). (If you are not familiar with these stories, I would encourage you to follow think link to both Judas and Sampson and familiarize yourself with this content. A brief reading could lay foundational context in approaching this subject.) Interestingly, Judas’s choice was committed in shame, remorse and guilt and the Bible does not seem to approve of his act. Yet in contrast, Sampson’s act was spurred by his request to God for great strength—strength enough to pull down the supporting pillars of a temple—on top of himself and many more Philistine “rulers and people.” It seems atrocious, but God is recorded as approving of Sampson’s sacrifice.

So we have two forms of suicide within these stories, as well as two different divine reactions. The problem of suicide (from a biblical perspective) does not seem to revolve around the “act” itself as much as we may have originally considered. Perhaps there is something larger, or completely different at play.

Without diving too deep into the nature of God, the problem of Good and Evil/Heaven and Hell, it seems that Anonymous is asking about suicide within the context of the eternal existence that the Bible refers to as “heaven.” Since biblical terminology has been introduced, I can only assume the regard for the Bible that I possess.

I think the Bible is Absolute Truth. Now, my own human understanding of this Truth is an entirely different subject, but I can only continue allowing the Text and this life to influence and expand my understanding. Also, when I refer to Absolute Truth, I do not mean historical, nor scientific, accuracy. To explain--although there probably never existed two little German children named Hansel and Gretel that left a trail of crumbs on their way to play, the story may contain Truth—in the capital “T” sense. There may be a lesson within the story that deems the fable worth telling. Also, instead of dissecting the individual segments of the Bible (although this vein of study can be beneficial, as well), when I consider Universal or Ultimate Truth, I try to consider the entire story. From my understanding of the entire story, I believe God is Good. Perhaps I cannot understand His Goodness, but my hope informs my faith of this, even in my lack of understanding, and I trust in the Text that affirms my hope. I also believe in the full reconciliation of the Creator to His Creation. “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [speaking of Jesus], and through him to reconcile to himself [God] all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” God wants everything to be reconciled to Him. I believe this with all my heart. That said… here are a few considerations.

What is wrong with suicide? I would venture to say that suicide is playing God. I would consider suicide in the same “category of transgression” as murder. Taking a life is taking a life, whether someone else’s or your own. There are many atrocities of terror that, as in Sampson’s case that appear as martyrdom—a single soldier with a sure fate running to the front line of a battle to save his platoon, or the lone astronaut that stayed behind on Apollo 13—but these have a diametrically distinct sentiment to the acts we most often refer to as suicide. The latter are normally characterized by shame, guilt, depression, hopelessness and loss. When someone takes their own life in this state, I feel as though they have lost faith in God--lost faith that His Goodness, although not synonymous with happiness, will see them through. Life seems to be some kind of training ground, full of lessons and obstacles to bring us closer to the image of Christ. Many Christians live for the Afterlife, and become focally fixated on heaven and hell to the extent that they ignore, what I see as, an intricate part of God’s intent of Creation. So, although this life may be “fleeting,” there must be some eternal aspect or significance to it that gives it any validity.

I see Jesus’ ministry as much more immediate and with far more emphasis on the life we have here on earth, than the Christian perspective tends to embrace. I also see our purpose here as a partnership in ushering in the eternal—that somehow we are a part of “all things being reconciled to himself.” God has given us ways to be a part of this. He has shown us how to be a part of this in Jesus—whom is our Salvation. Our salvation seems to be in taking part of His plan and abiding within His will. (Salvation here is not in the eternal sense, but in the freedom offered in the life God offers.) Cutting out early is missing out on the opportunities to be a part of this incredible story. And this is where I think the tragedy lies.

So is suicide sin? In 1 John 3.4, sin is considered a “transgression of the law” or anything “unrighteous” (1 John 5.17). Then Paul adds in Ephesians, that “what is not of faith is sin.” To me, I see sin as anything outside of God’s will. I would consider suicide a sin. Many people attach this particular sin, because it is a finality I would assume, as an act that would exclude the sinner/victim from the eternal existence outlined in the Bible. Yet, there is only sin the Bible lists as unforgivable--blasphemy against the Spirit. This unforgivable transgression is referenced in all three synoptic gospels. Therefore, suicide is forgivable. And then the question may arise, "But if repentance and acceptance of Christ as Savior is necessary for salvation, when would someone who had killed themself have the opportunity to repent?"  But there must be many that have died with unrepented sin.  And if the person were so deeply lost in the darkness without a sight of Hope, yet all their life, they saught out the Goodness in God and this world and they recognized and knew Christ as Saviour, will they face eternal condemnation?  I struggle here, but my heart hopes for a God larger than death and time.

Such logic, of an arbitrary judgement, disregards the eternal nature of God. We are bound by a directionally limited existence—we can only move forward in time, like one-direction ray. In eternity, this concept of time in progression would be unnecessary. Eternity is not bound by time as we are. Therefore, the ordinal chronology of repentance and sin may be irrelevant.

In my understanding of God’s ultimate plan for reconciliation, my heart would hope that all would be brought into his eternal existence. I think He certainly wants this, as well. I do not know what would happen eternally to a person that takes their own life, but I know God must mourn the loss of hope in His creation as my own heart mourns the brokenness and destitution of suicide.

But most of all, to really “answer your question,” this is not my call. I know that brings us back to square one. But I am not Judge. All I can do is seek to understand the life He calls me to today—in this life—and hope that His life in me will bring others into this incredible plan, as well. And although I could never know for certain in this life whether or not there is an Eternal Heaven and Hell, I live my life considering that there may be. But without focusing on where I (or others) will end up, I focus on how I can live THIS LIFE as a part of His Creation.
I don’t know how much this would help, but this trajectory is where my heart brought me. If you have more questions, please continue the conversation. Your heart for people is very apparent, Anonymous. Thank you.
Stay Dusty.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Oh, Bonnie. Don't Hate Me.

Sometimes it is just fun, and you just want to.  SO not my style, but SO fun regardless.  Enjoy. Laugh. Sing Along.

Monday, August 1, 2011

RESPONSE: Has anyone ever stopped and asked...

Comment from Original Post:

       Anonymous said...

YES!!! I've asked that question to the point where it's caused me great anxiety! Why would Jesus have to die and how does that save me? I mean, this is the very core of our faith, isn't it? This is the first time I've had it explained to me this way and it was quite encouraging and thought-provoking. So, thank you!

I still have a lingering question or two. For example, who wrote the rule/law that there must be a sacrifice made or that the consequence of sin is death? Why did Abraham and his people have to be perfect to be blessed?

Thanks again!
Hello, there "Anonymous." :) Thank you for your words.. and your questions. I am going to attempt this, but please understand that I am in no way claiming to "have it figured out..." I ask a lot of questions, too--and when I start digging around and exploring the context of the Text, I sometimes end up with a few "ideas," but I normally find myself in a mountain of entirely new questions. So I completely relate.  

As for your questions... I don't know that there is a "law," per se, that requires a death sacrifice (that is, before the covenant with Abraham), but the blood covenant I refer to in this post is a cultural tradition that still exists in Bedouin culture today. The blood covenant is most often associated with the marital customs, but there are also times when a business deal or land dispute would necessitate a blood covenant. The greater party would be the groom's father and the lesser would be the bride's father (or grandfather). If the bride did not keep her promises--she wasn't a virgin, she didn't stay faithful, etc.--you would more than likely find her father or grandfather dead in a wadi, with bloody footprints dancing over the ground of his blood. Same scenario with the groom--if he did not provide for his bride, treat her well, provide the promised dowry--you would be sure to find the groom's father's body slung out in the desert, again with the mark of bare feet in his blood. This was simply the nature of the covenant.  

Now, in reading Genesis 15, God has promised Abram some very wonderful blessings. Abram is a righteous man of faith, and he tries to call God's bluff. Abram asks for some sign that he would know that God intended to keep his promise.  

Then, God commands Abram to go get a few very specific animals. (Later in the Hebrew Bible, these become the acceptable animals of an atonement sacrifice.)  

And next verse, Abram cuts the animals in half and lays them across from each other... This seems bizarre. There is no recording of God instructing Abram to do anything specific with the animals; God simply says, "Go get them." But God seems to be pleased, or at least not surprised, by Abram's actions, so it seems that God has approved of this ceremony or was expecting it. And to be fair-- perhaps God did instruct Abram to do this, and the Bible just has not recorded God's directions.  

But I believe there is another possibility.  

To me, when God asks Abram to gather the animals, and Abram knows exactly what to do with them, suggest that there must have already existed a custom in Abram's day that involved these specific animals. I grab my dog's leash and she runs to the door, wagging her tail in frenzied expectation. She knows what is coming, and I believe that at this point in Genesis 15, Abram knows exactly what is coming, as well.  

Thus, in the Covenant, the terms were not, "Abram--I give you all the heirs, a land to serve me, and and the blessing of the Messiah. So I will die for you to keep my promise." The covenant was, "Abram, I bless you with all these things, and in exchange, you and your offspring must be blameless." The CONSEQUENCE for not following through with a covenant--by default of EITHER party--would call for the blood of the transgressor. The covenant would then be null and void, and neither party would have any obligation to the other.  

And now, the incredible pictures in this story begin to unfold... God, the greater party, passes through the bloodpath first, sealing His promise to Abram. Next up would traditionally be Abram, being the lesser party. But if Abram steps one teeny-tiny toe into the blood, he essentially voids the transaction and will pay with his life.  

In this moment, I imagine Abram-- about to sentence himself to death--and God throws His strong, gentle arm in Abram's beating chest, and with the sage gravity of a martyr says, "No, my son. I've got this."  

And the terms all of a sudden change.  

God still says, "Abram--I give you all the heirs, a land to serve me, and and the blessing of the Messiah," as well as, "Abram, I bless you with all these things, and in exchange, you and your offspring must be blameless." But the difference is that God walked through the bloodpath path twice. Therefore, God ultimately says," If you, Abram, and your offspring are not perfect, YOU may do this to ME."  

And this is actually what I view as the necessity for God/Christ's death. He had to fall at our hands. And with His death, a new covenant is made. Hebrews 7 refers to this, "For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second." Abram and his offspring failed, as we fail. We have sinned, and our sin sentenced Jesus to death on the cross. But this was God's gift to us. And in the completion of the Old Covenant, we can rejoice in the New Promise. '

So, this was long, but I was good for me to review all of this, as well. If you had these questions, I am sure others did, as well--even if they have not expressed or even fully formulated them. Thanks again...  

And as always, be encouraged.  
Stay dusty,