Summary: I was asked to share my feelings about suicide by the husband, who had been hurt many years earlier by some inappropriate comments by a pastor upon the suicide death of his friend.
“My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our hearts condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. . . .Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows god. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
I John 3:18-23, 4:7-11
What I have to say today is not easy—but the loss of a loved one, especially when it is unexpected, is never easy. Through the years, I have watched many times as ministers have tap-danced around the issues involved in a person’s death, probably out of a fear that they will somehow mishandle situation, or that they will offend someone. And recently I found myself doing the very same thing, only to chastise myself for not having the courage to speak freely the words of grace. So please bear with me, because even though I realize what I have to say touches a sensitive issue, I don’t believe you will find it offensive.
What I do find offensive is an opinion I have heard all through my life, an opinion that most people, and especially the preacher, avoid mentioning at the funeral. And that is the opinion that someone who takes his or her own life is somehow barred from the doorway to heaven, and somehow can’t be forgiven for it. I have a problem with that, for several reasons.
First of all, I have a problem with it because it means somebody besides God has set themselves up as Judge, and my Bible tells me we’re not supposed to do that.
I have a problem with it because I don’t see anywhere in Scripture that tells us that. In the few places where it is mentioned that someone takes his or her life, there are no moral value statements made about it one way or the other, it simply is reported.
But the biggest objection I have to this kind of thinking is that it throws out everything that makes a person who they are, and focuses the vale of an entire life on one single act. And that is one of the biggest wrongs we can do to any person.
You know, life can sometimes be extremely tough. And we all handle life’s pressures differently. We as individuals boil at different degrees, we respond in different ways to the same set of circumstances, and some of us cope better than others. And while we can see some of that to some degree in others, we never see the total picture—BUT GOD DOES. “The Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks upon the heart” (I Sam. 16:7). And that’s what makes it hard for us to deal with, because it’s easy to look at the circumstances, but we will never truly know what went on in Judy’s heart at that moment.
But let me read for you again what John had to say, because I find this to be very important for us here this morning. In chapter 3, verse 23, he writes “This is his commandment, (1) that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and (2) love one another.” Only two requirements here that John boils it down to. And Judy met the first requirement, because she made that profession, and from everything I am told, she never once wavered or backed up on that belief.
As for the second requirement, “love one another,” listen to what John says in chapter 4, verse 7: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and EVERYONE WHO LOVES IS BORN OF GOD AND KNOWS GOD.” As I spent some time with the family the other day, I don’t believe there was a single person I talked to who didn’t mention at some point in the conversation what a loving person Judy was.