Everyone seems interested in the death of Ariel Castro, the godless man who held three women captive in his home for years. These women endured physical and emotional trauma for years, and the mental trauma will last the rest of their lives. Life in prison was Castro's sentence. His sentence was cut short when he was found hanged in his prison cell. "Justice served." was a comment on a blog that reported the MSN news report. Understanding why some may feel a sense of vindication, one should be careful not to boast in his death. Christians, especially, need to be mindful that suicide is murder. Murder is sin. Those who commit it shall not inherit Heaven. He deserved life in prison, and his sentence was the perfect time for him to give his life to the Lord. No one knows what was going through his mind when he made the decision to take his life. Perhaps he thought he deserved to go to Hell and figured it would be better than serving a life sentence. What one can know is that there is redemption after sin. Surprise! The Bible addresses suicide.
In the New Testament, we have two instances of suicide. One attempt was successful while the other was not. People have been committing self-murder for centuries. In modern society suicide is practiced. Accurately stated, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. The act of suicide is a means to permanently wipe out an overwhelming situation. However, when one commits suicide, the effects are lingering. The deceased is forever plagued with the eternal consequences of his or her decision and family and friends of the deceased live with the emotional pain and (unnecessary) guilt for years.
First we will examine the Philippian Jailer in Acts 16. His responsibility was to keep watch over the prisoners. In this time in Rome if a prisoner escaped under the watch of jailer, that jailer was put to death. After false accusations had Paul and Silas thrown into prison, they were under the watch of a Philippian jailer. Paul and Silas were thrown into the inner prison, and their feet were fastened in the stock (Acts 16:22-24). Being chained to walls of prison cells in Paul’s time is similar to being in a maximum level security prison today. Imagine Paul and Silas in a state penitentiary.
After some time while Paul and Silas were in prison, there was a great earthquake, and all the prison doors were opened. The chains of every prisoner were unfastened, including Paul's and Silas’ (verse 26). When the jailer saw this, his first thought was to kill himself (verse 27). He felt that he failed to accomplish the orders of the chief magistrates to keep secure guard over the prisoners. In his panic, the jailer attempted suicide by withdrawing his sword. This man had a family that he did not consider. The Apostle Paul cried out letting the jailer know that they had not escaped. The Apostle Paul cried out in a loud voice telling him not to commit suicide. As he was trembling with fear, the jailer fell down before Paul and Silas and asked them what he had to do to be saved. The same Gospel the Bible teaches now is the same Gospel that the jailer obeyed. The jailer was baptized as well as his household (verses 28-34). His family did not have to mourn the suicide of the jailer. Not only were the jailer and his family baptized for the remission of their sins, but they became brothers and sisters in the faith.
Notice the circumstance that made the jailer attempt suicide. It was a temporary issue. He had a household whom he did not consider when he thought to commit self-murder. Finally, his response is noted when he realized that he was outside of Christ: “What must I do to be saved?” The lost who truly seeks God realizes his spiritual state, studies the Bible, and submits himself unto God’s will to be saved from the bondage of sin. The jailer was saved physically and most importantly, spiritually. His family did not endure emotional anguish of his suicide because he was redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. The jailer’s household also studied the Bible and submitted to God’s will: they were also baptized! His household was transformed by the renewing of their minds (Romans 12:2).
Now examine Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Jesus (Matthew 10:4). He was one of the 12 disciples and sadly his suicide attempt was successful. As an Apostle of Christ, Judas failed to fulfill his calling. Instead, Judas betrayed Jesus by selling him out to the chief priests and elders for 30 pieces of silver (the price of a slave). This eventually led to Jesus’ unfair trial and crucifixion.
Before Jesus’ death, they bound him and led away to be delivered unto Pilate so that he could give authority to put Jesus to death. When Judas saw Jesus’ condemnation, he was remorseful and tried to give back the 30 pieces of silver. He realized he betrayed innocent blood (Matthew 27:3ff). However, what was done was done. The chief priests and elders who paid Judas did not want the money back. It was then that Judas realized their decision to kill Jesus was final. Judas could not maintain with the guilt of knowing he betrayed Jesus. His resolution was to hang himself.
Judas committed suicide because he had fear, guilt, and remorse. Perhaps he had a family that he did not think about when he ran outside to hang himself. Christ had power on earth to forgive sins (Matthew 9:6), thus, had Judas repented, forgiveness is what he could have received. Rather, Judas chose the permanent escape to his problem: suicide. The decision he made to kill himself is permanent; he cannot ask for forgiveness for betraying Jesus, neither can he ask for forgiveness for committing suicide. It is done and he is currently serving his sentence in torments in agony.
The feelings of guilt were the same in the jailer’s plight and Judas’. The thought process was the same for both circumstances, but the outcomes were different. Both predicaments could have ended the same: they both could have committed suicide or they both could have been restored. The difference between the end results was the heart of both men. The jailer wanted to kill himself, but then asked, “What must I do to be saved?” He was spared. His manner of life was that of a Christian. Judas had worldly remorse and did not have true repentance. So he committed suicide. Judas could have received forgiveness from Christ, but he did not ask for it.
At times, one has to get along with the guilt of one’s own past mistakes. Sometimes, a person has to get along with the emotional and physical pain that others cause. Living with such emotions is a side effect to a temporary dilemma that has already passed. Blessed is mankind to have a God who forgives instantly. Suicide is a selfish act that only results in eternal damnation for the deceased, and lasting emotional pain and guilt of the family and friends of the deceased. Suicide is a form of murder. Murder is a sin. God does not excuse the act of suicide, therefore, not an option to Him. Seek counsel from God. There is healing after tragedy. The Bible is proof. It is better living with hurt and guilt than dying and spending eternity in Hell.