New Testament Christianity: A Preventive to Suicide
It is my firm conviction that the revelation of God in the Bible is the best preventive to suicide which can be found. The man who understands what the Scriptures record is better equipped to face life's problems than the man who has not sought to build a relationship with God based on the Scriptures.
A Case In Point
The sixteenth chapter of Acts not only records the conversion of the Philippian jailor, it also contains the record of an attempted suicide. As a matter of fact, the New Testament record provides a refreshing contrast between two life-styles - that of New Testament Christianity with that of paganism.
The Apostle Paul and his associate Silas were beaten and thrust into prison following a miracle in which, through the power of God, they cast out a spirit of divination from a young lady. When her masters saw that their hope of financial gain through selling the woman's ability to divine the future was gone, they brought charges against Paul and Silas. The result was that they were beaten, thrust into the inner prison, and put in stocks. How would they handle this serious setback? Would they go into a spirit of depression? Did they need a double dose of Valium? Would they contemplate suicide? None of these reactions are recorded. Rather, the record states, "And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God" (Acts 16:25). Their spirits were indomitable. They were able to handle these kinds of problems in life without sinking into the depths of emotional despair.
The record continues to relate that an earthquake was sent from God which loosened the bonds of the prisoners and caused the prison doors to be opened. "And the keeper of the prison awaked out of his sleep, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled" (Acts 16:27). Without a doubt, the jailor was responsible for these prisoners with his life. In the event that they escaped, he would be killed.
Nevertheless, when problems confronted him in his life, he handled them differently than did Paul and Silas. When Paul and Silas sat in the inner prison fastened in bonds, they sang praises to God. When the jailor thought that the prisoners had escaped, he was ready to commit suicide. I suggest to you that these two attitudes toward facing the problems in one's life manifest the superiority of Christianity toward meeting the problems of life over that of paganism.
The Basis For Life In Paganism
Paganism has a different concept toward life than does Christianity. The differences in these concepts toward life, affects one's outlook on life. Let us consider some of the attitudes which paganism has toward life. Remember that by "paganism," I mean any non-Christian approach toward life.
1. The life is considered in relationship to the number of pleasurable experiences. Some forms of paganism measure life on the basis of the proportionate number of pleasant and unpleasant experiences. When the number of unpleasant experiences exceeds the number of pleasant experiences, life is not considered to be worth living anymore. Hence, suicide then becomes a viable option. Christians are not taught to so measure life. Life must be weighed in relationship to a judgment day with everlasting consequences (heaven or hell).
2. Life is considered without regard to future existence. Secularism is not concerned with life after death. Our secular society has generally destroyed any concern for the hereafter. No one is talking about heaven and hell anymore. Hence, the modern pagan does not decide his present conduct on the basis of how it will affect his future existence.
3. Man is considered to be merely an animal. Our evolutionist friends have perpetuated their doctrine of men; it is taught in practically every school in America. Our children are taught that man is merely a highly developed animal. He is not told that he has a soul which is immortal and which is created in the image of God; rather, he is told that man has simply progressed on the evolutionary scale at a more rapid rate than has other animals. This certainly colors ones disposition toward his life.
4. Why not commit suicide? From the pagan point of view, why should a man not commit suicide? What logical reason can a person give for a man not taking his life? Pagans have rejected the Bible as their standard of morality; they have rejected a belief in life after death. Hence, why should a pagan not take his life when life on this earth becomes more unpleasant than pleasant? There is no answer to these questions if one accepts the premises of modern paganism.
Christian Ethics: The Solution to Suicide
The advantage of Christianity over paganism becomes exceedingly apparent just at these points. Notice how Christian ethics give an individual a reason for not taking his life.
1. Murder is sinful. The first step which I would take in dealing with a potential suicide victim would be to tell him that the taking of human life in such an act is murder self-murder, but murder nonetheless. Murder is still murder if the victim consents to it. The taking of one's life is sinful (Rev. 21:8); it is destruction of the body which is the dwelling place of the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
2. Life is sacred. Man is created in the image of God. The Genesis account states the following:
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them (Gen. 1:26-27).
The sacredness of human life is also seen in the punishment which is given to those who take another's life. When one is trying to show the importance of any given item, he prices it highly. When a particular ordinance is being emphasized, the punishment for disobedience is made particularly harsh. For that reason, the punishment for a parking violation and that for murder are different; life is more precious than a parking violation. God's evaluation of human life is seen in the punishment that he gives to the man who takes another's life. He stated, "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man" (Gen. 9:6). Hence, life is exceedingly precious in the sight of God.
To this must be added the statements relative to the manner in which a Christian is a part of God's purchased possession, the church. Paul instructed us concerning the proper usage of the body in his comments regarding fornication. Notice the several arguments that he made: (1) The body is for the Lord (1 Cor. 6:13). Our bodies are to be used to the service of God; they are to be presented as living sacrifices to God (Rom. 12:1-2; Phil. 1:20). (2) My body shall be raised from the dead in the likeness of Christ's resurrected body (1 Cor. 6:14; cf. Phil. 3:21). (3) My body is a member of Christ (1 Cor. 6:15). Under the figure of the church as a body, Paul argued that the body of Christ is made up of individual members of the church. Hence, my body is a part of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:14-26). (4) My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and (5) the possession of Christ. Paul wrote, "What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's " (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Hence, the body of man is sacred. The Christian cannot take his life because it is a violation of these principles.
3. Sin separates a man from God throughout all eternity. The Scriptures are quite clear in revealing that the punishment for sin is eternal life in Hell (Rom. 6:23; Rev. 21:8). Hence, the man who is contemplating suicide because of
horrible circumstances in this life should be told that he is headed for something worse by taking his life. He will not be improving his circumstances by taking his life. Rather, he will simply be hastening an entrance into eternal punishment.
4. There is hope for a better tomorrow. The hopelessness of the potential suicide victim can be dealt with through the Christian's blessed hope for an eternal inheritance "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith" (1 Pet. 1:4-5). Regardless of how bad one's circumstances might be in this life, there is hope for a better life beyond the grave. No one's situation is totally hopeless.
One's circumstances in this life might become unpleasant to the degree that he has no desire to continue to live on this earth below. Paul's circumstances became that way. Sitting in a prison in Rome, Paul wrote, "For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better" (Phil. 1:23). His circumstances in life were not pleasant. To die would be an improvement for him. Yet, not once did he consider taking his own life. Rather, he fixed his hope in God and on heaven. He said, "For our conversation (politeuma citizenship) is in heaven; from when also we look far the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself" (Phil. 3:20-21).
Christianity Is Profitable
Understanding the temptations which face the potential suicide victim, we see Christianity alone has the answers for him. We are therefore reminded that Christianity is profitable not only for the life which is to come but also for the one which presently exists (1 Tim. 4:8). (concluded next week)
Truth Magazine XXIV: 7, pp. 115-117