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Mark 14:53-15:1; Matthew 26:57-27:10; Luke 22:54-71; & John 18:25-27

11.02.2010

After yesterday’s heavy post about loneliness and agony, I thought I’d lighten things up around here.  Today’s post will be about suicide!  The key text is Matt 27:3-10, which tells of Judas becoming overwhelmed with guilt and killing himself. 

There’s a strong tradition in the church of reviling suicide.  Many have interpreted it (incorrectly, I think) to be the unforgiveable sin.  Chesterton wrote about how we separate the graves of the suicides from those of the martyrs, despite their superficial similarity, because the latter considered life so valuable that they would give their own to save another’s whereas the former considered life so valueless that they would throw it away rather than endure it any longer.  In that sense, suicide does seem to embody a comprehensive rejection of God, His creation, His gift of existence, and His promise of eternity.

But all of this, I think, errs in ascribing more rationality to the act of suicide than it deserves in most cases.*  Did Judas draw up a balance sheet in his head weighing the benefits of killing himself against the (rather obvious) drawbacks?  I doubt it.  That’s not the picture that Matthew paints for us.  Rather, we see a man consumed with remorse and confusion and self-hatred, heavily under the influence of sin, lost for options on how to move forward.  Tragically, the very blindness that kept him from seeing Jesus as the Man He was rather than the man Judas wanted him to be is the same blindness which narrows his options down to (an empty, futile, disgraceful, lonely) one.

For Judas, the sin in his life that drives him to this place is clear.  He bore the responsibility of representing all of history in his rejection of Jesus.  For the other faceless, nameless, countless suicides, the connection is rarely so clear.  This weekend, a friend of a friend tried to kill herself and succeeded only in blowing half her face off.  As far as I can tell, her life has been spent in an empty search for validation and acceptance and true relationship.  She lives in a secular culture that doesn’t know how to tell her that her nature is sinful and that happiness lies on the other side of accepting Christ’s atoning sacrifice for that sin.  Combine that ignorance of the Gospel with what seems (from this distance) like mental illness, which is just as much the product of a fallen world as cancer and war and natural disasters, and I have a hard time condemning either her or Judas for the violent, fearful, false-last-option of suicide.

Judas’ fate also illustrates another truth about the impact of sin in the world.  Here is the eve of victory for Satan.  You’d imagine his ‘team’ to be celebrating their moment of triumph.  But there is no team here.  Choosing sin does not hold even the empty promise of being on the winning side of eternity.  Sin uses people and chews them up and spits them out.  Here is Satan, at the point where you can imagine he would be about as satisfied as possible, but he’s not.  There is no satisfaction for Satan.  He knows nothing other than rejection and destruction and pain.  This is how, in its very nature, there can be no victory in sin.  Sin only knows how to devour, and thus it can only devour itself and those who choose to dwell in it.

———-

* There are exceptions:  in September, a man called Mitchell Heisman took his own life in the middle of Harvard Yard as an illustration of his nihilistic manifesto that life is meaningless.  Aside from the heart-rending tragedy of the story, watching secular thinkers (whose writing I respect) wrestle with the philosophical ramifications of this act is both fascinating and sobering.

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From → [cs/gk], [general]

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