Since the tragic news broke of Pastor Jarrid Wilson’s suicide, many have provided their thoughts and opinions on the topic. Some I agreed with, some were rather nuanced, and one written by Elizabeth Johnson, “The Activist Mommy,” that I disagreed with so strongly I couldn’t not respond.
To preface, Elizabeth is a dear friend. I’ve spent ample time with her and her wonderful family and am always encouraged by the ministerial influence they have to so many.
She exemplifies the love of Christ through kindness when needed and ferocity when needed, and by ferocity I mean the Department of Defense needs to consider contracting this warrior – she’s amazing. Her demands for justice and advocacy for the unborn routinely garner hateful reactions and even violent threats – threats that I would use every ounce of Marine left in me to fend off.
But friends can disagree – and sometimes these disagreements are on fundamental matters of Christian doctrine. She’s still a beloved sister in ministry – and I look forward to preaching the Gospel outside of abortion clinics with her and her army again soon.
In An Open Letter To Pastors In The Wake Of Young Megachurch Minister’s Suicide, Elizabeth takes a position on suicide that I vehemently oppose. She provides a compassionate and prayerful approach to the recent news Wilson’s suicide, and even uses her large platform to amplify a link to the family’s Go Fund Me. But then she took a turn that not only caught me off guard, but was a point I fiercely disagreed with:
Suicide leads inescapably to Hell.
Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Church where Wilson attended, gave an emotional statement on Wilson’s death which included the phrase:
“He is in Heaven now.”
To which Elizabeth responded:
“Doesn’t scripture say that ‘no murderer will enter the kingdom of God?’ Isn’t suicide murder of one’s self? Doesn’t the Bible say that “murderers will have their part in the lake of fire”? Isn’t the last act of a person committing suicide, self-murder?”
To be fair, I hope all my readers read Elizabeth’s statement in full so the above paragraph doesn’t make her out to sound uncompassionate.
To Elizabeth’s claim that suicide is murder, I protest.
To her claim that suicide leads inescapably to Hell, I protest.
I don’t believe Elizabeth is being unfaithful to scripture, but rather misinterpreting it – and there’s a big difference. Unfaithfulness to scripture means to ignore, avoid, or intentionally manipulate. Elizabeth is not guilty of those actions.
Suicide is not murder, but rather a crime of passion.
If we want to use judicial terms, I think “crime of passion” is more suited for suicide, but certainly murder is not. Murder is the taking of an innocent life out of anger or some form of hate. A crime of passion merits a far lesser punishment in a court of law since to qualify as a crime of passion, the suspect must be considered in an altered state of mind. Similarly, with suicide, one is not in their right mind when they follow through. A circumstance arises, or a build-up of ongoing circumstances, explodes and allows the body, which is naturally resistant to self-harm, to kill itself.
Jarrid, a faithful husband, loving father of two, and life-giver to so many, was not in his right mind and thus does not deserve the guilt of murder. It should be noted that hours before he took his life, Jarrid officiated a funeral of a woman who had taken her life. Mental illness, which plagued Jarrid for years, saturated his mind like a physical illness, and led him to make this tragic decision.
No, suicide does not lead inescapably to Hell.
Even if we ignore my above dichotomy between murder and crimes of passion, and assume that suicide is murder, how does suicide lead inescapably to Hell? Yes, the Bible says that murderers won’t inherit the Kingdom, but in the same verse it says that liars won’t either. The verse is talking about those who haven’t put their faith in Jesus.
If a Christian were to lie, but, before repenting died in a car accident, would they be subject to eternal damnation? I’m sure Elizabeth agrees with me that they would certainly not go to Hell.
So if the Christian liar isn’t subject to Hell because of an unrepented sin prior to their death, why not the Christian who dies by suicide?
Let’s be consistent.
Jarrid didn’t earn his salvation, that was Jesus – and NO amount of sin or mental illness or any other variable can EVER take that salvation away.
Jarrid’s eternity in Heaven has been secured by the blood of Jesus that covers his sin since by grace, through faith, in Christ alone, Jarrid was saved – and his life spoke to such redemption.
John Wesley Reid is a DC-based commentator. After studying political science at Biola University, he attended seminary at Liberty University. In his media career, John has interviewed numerous members of Congress, Activist Mommy, Lila Rose, Ben Shapiro, Jerry Falwell Jr., Allie Stucky, and other cultural influencers. Prior to his media career John served in the Marine Corps as a military police assigned to a security component for Presidents George W. Bush and Barrack Obama. His favorite things in life are Jesus, coffee, and puns. Johnwesleyreid.com