Maybe I'm the last one to blog about this tragedy, the suicide of Robin Williams. My purpose is not to reiterate this loss, and this loss that creates a void in our entertainment lives. Many eloquent words have already been spoken. Instead I will focus as a person of faith on the matter of depression, in particular, suicide. Robin Williams and his self-destruction triggered these reflections.
How do followers of Jesus Christ, what do we make of suicide? I remember years ago when I was in a blue funk, and a dear friend asked me how I was doing, I grumbled, "Crummy, kind of bummed." To which my friend exhorted me, "Dale, too bad, Christ lives in you, you should be overjoyed." To which I angrily responded, "Too bad, it's true I am a Christian, but I'm a Christian in a blue funk today, tough!" My friend meant well, and his victorious triumphalism is one of the concerns. Is there no room for having a bad day and following Jesus? It's impossible to read the Psalms and think that because God is alive in me, all should always be peachy keen in me as well." So people who follow Jesus are entitled to bad days, but what about the matter of depression, chronic depression?
I'm no expert on this matter, but depression increasingly is understood not as a character flaw, but a disease state, something that merits therapeutic attention. Would we condemn someone with strep throat or breast cancer? I think not. So the question surfaces, is suicide the unpardonable sin? Some have said so. But...
I am cautious to usurp a throne of judgment that I cannot and must not occupy. Yet today and throughout centuries past, people have felt empowered to tell us who is in God's favor and who is not. So some are free or seemingly authorized to bring rulings such that a person who commits suicide is condemned to damnation and outside the grace of God. That would not be me. It occurs to me that sin leads to death, and condemnation; apart from the grace of God, how can any sin be atoned for. Surely suicide is not outside the umbrella of God's redemption. Some in the broad Christian communion assert that suicide is beyond God's redemptive work in Jesus Christ, and they self-proclaim accordingly. But condemned or not, who says so, by what authority do we speak to this issue? How about a survey of some scriptural insights.
John 3:16: speaks not of condemnation, but God's efforts to redeem, to rescue the world from its own sin.
Ephesians 2:8,9: promises that it's all about grace, and God is the primary actor in salvation, in redemption, not us, not our efforts. Our efforts merit condemnation, but that is not the last word, but the overcoming mercy of God in Christ by grace!
Romans 8:31,32: challenges those that limit the sphere of God's redemption; God held nothing back, not even his Son to rescue us.
2 Corinthians 5:21: Be wary of getting overly trapped in our own sins, because it was the atoning work of Jesus that confers upon us broken sinners the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:10: And yes, we face judgment, but the judge is also our redeemer.
The entire Bible speaks very little of suicide, but nowhere is it affirmed. Usually it's a matter of fact, so-n-so killed himself. Several times suicides are mentioned in the Old Testament, but only once is it spoken of in the New Testament, Judas. Such biblical insight, and a sparing reference to it in the biblical canon urges our caution when making eschatological conclusions about suicide and individual's destinies. My theological conclusions:
--Suicide is condemned.
--Suicide, like any sin, merits eternal consequence.
--Suicide, like any sin, does not seem to exist beyond the veil of God's redeeming grace in Jesus Christ. In other words, it is not the unpardonable sin. In short, the unpardonable sin is to call God's grace and truth, redemption a lie and to forsake redemption.
--No human person committing suicide or dying of some other cause...not one of those human beings stands before you or me in judgment or our theological pronouncement. There is only one who judges humans, and it's no one who preaches from a pulpit, or blogs, or teaches in a seminary; it's the Lord Jesus Christ, and him alone. Which brings me back to Robin Williams.
I have no information about this treasured actor, comedian, entertainer--I know nothing of his status with his Creator and judge. Neither am I in a position to rule on his eternal destiny, and I do not believe you are in a position to do so either. He was forthcoming about his long-term wrestling with depression. No doubt this demon led him to destroy himself and for us to lose him as a joy, or the very least, a fellow human being struggling to find meaning and joy in this up and down world. If I had an opportunity to speak with Mr. Williams a few days ago, I would have urged him to do what he probably was already doing, get the very best medical help he could to fight the demon called depression. I also would have been pleased to share the hope of Jesus Christ with him, and somehow convey the message of the Apostle Peter, "There is no salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12 NRS)
There is good news in the midst of this tragedy. Like you and me, Robin Williams' destiny is in the hands of a perfect, altogether righteous, fair and loving God. He's a whole lot better off in that court than before you or me, or any other human being who has ever lived. I take peace and a bittersweet joy in this truth.
Our world is a poorer place for his absence. Let's be friends, partners in this journey with one another, especially a partner in this journey who suffers from the demon depression. They need friends, lovers; they have no need of another judge.