Summary: A sermon for the military community looking at the topic of suicide.
This sermon was developed for the Army Community. It contains phraseology that may not be understood by the general civilian population.
Every year 32,000 people commit suicide in the United States. It is the 9th leading cause of death. In fact it is likely that just about everyone here today knows someone, or of someone who has committed suicide. Statistics say that 98% of all people 12 years old or older at one time or another have considered committing suicide, even if it was only a passing thought and quickly dismissed.
As a military chaplain I have had to deal with suicide more often that anyone would wish to. Recently, last January to be exact, I had a young man in my battalion commit suicide. By all outward appearances he had everything to live for. He was a commo chief for a line company, he had a reasonable number of friends, he seemed to be fairly well liked and he was about to be promoted. But for some reason that escapes both myself and all of this soldiers friends and co-workers he committed suicide one night in his room. Nobody knows why, and the sad truth is that no one will ever know why. All we are left with are questions. Why did he do it? Could we have prevented this? And for many of this soldier’s co-workers and friends did he go to heaven or hell? This last question none of us can answer simply because we are not God. But that does not mean that we cannot examine some principles that can help us make an educated guess.
But before we talk about some principles lets talk about three commonly held myths about what happens to a person when he or she commits suicide. The first one is that nothing happens at all. The person who commits suicide simple ceases to exist. They are neither rewarded or punished they just stop existing. This myth is popular with individuals that have no real religious belief or hope for the future.
How many people here remember the TV show M.A.S.H. of the late 70’s and early 80’s about a group of Army doctors serving in the Korean Conflict? How many of you remember the theme song, the one that was used for both the movie and the first season? The one with the words? Let’s listen to some of it, I think it really exemplifies the view that there is no hope for the future. Listen to the words [Play The Song]
The game of life is hard to play
I’m gonna lose it anyway
The losing card I’ll someday lay
A brave man once requested me
to answer questions that are key
is it to be or not to be
and I replied ’oh why ask me?’
These are the words of a person who has given up hope, a person who sees no real future for himself. I believe that those who support the idea that nothing happens to a person who commits suicide are in a truly sad state. They reason no one really knows what happens after we die and no one will know what happens until they die. And while this is a ultimately a true statement, as person who believe that death, has been conquered by Christ, a person with a hope for an eternal future I think we can safely discount this myth or view.
The second myth is more or less a variation of the first one. The person who commits suicide goes into a limbo of sorts. Consider the movie “What Dreams May Come.” No doubt more that a few of us here have seen it. Chris Nielsen (played by Robin Williams) is a good man. Loving husband, devoted father, compassionate doctor... is killed in a car accident.
Upon his death, he goes to heaven, but heaven isn’t a perfect place for Chris because his wife Annie isn’t there. The combination of losing her children in an car accident four years earlier and now having Chris, her husband die in a second car accident pushes her over the brink into a suicidal depression which ultimately leads to her taking her own life. In the movie Suicides don’t go to heaven. They go ... someplace else.
The someplace else is a kind of a personal hell or a holding place for suicides. A place where a person’s own imagination hold them captive. Now, I think that we can discount this myth as well simply because the Bible does not talk about a holding place reserved for suicides.
The third and final myth is a very commonly held. Many people have been taught that if a person commits suicide that he or she is going to hell. This teaching is based on a early church tradition that has little foundation in the scriptures.