When I was young, some asked me this question: “Will there be one day where you become ashamed to be a Christian?”
That day has come. The day Rick Warren’s son died.
I am ashamed to be called one. But first on behalf of all the Christians let me be the first one to apologize to him and shed a tear for the lost of his son. I too lament for a good friend who shed tears to see his son suffering from depression. I wonder how can we be so religious to have said so much rubbish against Pastor Warren.
I echo Frank Viola’s sentiments in his blog where I reproduce in full here and share in my stand to speak against the religiosity and stupidity of the remarks made about him and his deceased son.
“Why do so many people not want to have anything to do with Jesus? It’s because of the cruel, harsh, self-righteous, and judgmental attitude that some professing “Christians” level against their fellow believers.
“Why would I want to be part of that bunch!?” . . . is the common response by so many non-Christians today.
Yesterday, I got the sad news that Rick Warren’s youngest son committed suicide. Here’s a short explanation from Rick.
The 27-year-old son of Pastor Rick Warren has taken his own life after a lifelong struggle with mental illness. The internationally known Christian leader at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, made the announcement about his son early Saturday morning in an email sent to his staff.
“No words can express the anguished grief we feel right now. Our youngest son, Matthew, age 27, and a lifelong member of Saddleback, died today,” wrote Warren.
“Over the past 33 years we’ve been together through every kind of crisis. Kay and I’ve been privileged to hold your hands as you faced a crisis or loss, stand with you at gravesides, and prayed for you when ill. Today, we need your prayer for us,” began the staff email from him.
Warren described Matthew as “an incredibly kind, gentle, and compassionate man,” as those who grew up with him would also say.
“He had a brilliant intellect and a gift for sensing who was most in pain or most uncomfortable in a room. He’d then make a bee-line to that person to engage and encourage them,” he continued. “But only those closest knew that he struggled from birth with mental illness, dark holes of depression, and even suicidal thoughts. In spite of America’s best doctors, meds, counselors, and prayers for healing, the torture of mental illness never subsided. Today, after a fun evening together with Kay and me, in a momentary wave of despair at his home, he took his life.”
Warren said that he and his wife often marveled at Matthew’s courage “to keep moving in spite of relentless pain.”
“I’ll never forget how, many years ago, after another approach had failed to give relief, Matthew said, ‘Dad, I know I’m going to heaven. Why can’t I just die and end this pain?’ but he kept going for another decade,” he wrote.
If you are a Christian and you’re heart doesn’t go out to this brother and his family, something is wrong with you spiritually.
I don’t care what you think about Warren’s theology, his books, or how he combs his hair. The fact is, he lost a child. Few things can be more painful and nightmarish in this life.
To add insult to injury, just take a look at some of the comments by fellow “Christians” (professing ones at least) to the news. These are comments that were left on various Christian news websites under the Warren article:
Train up your children in the way, live a godly example with right priorities, care enough to home-school despite the great sacrifice involved, don’t let them date unchaperoned, have daily family devotions, turn off the 1-eyed idiot, TRULY HAVE A PURPOSE-DRIVEN LIFE, and your children WILL NOT COMMIT SUICIDE, nor will they be involved in homosexuality, nor fornication.
He killed himself, it’s much worse than fornication or homosexuality or Onanism or eating pork. He denied himself a chance to get better. If your kids need a chaperone to date, why do you let them date? They shouldn’t be dating if they are not mature enough to control themselves.
Suicide happens soon after your stupid enough to read “The Purpose Driven Life”.
Poor Matthew denies God’s Love with suicide.
He could not save his own because Mr. Warren does not truly understand how his own heart works, how it is broken and the mechanism by which Jesus laid out the example of how to fix it. Matthew killed himself because he did not understand either. He was a victim of his own ignorance and the ignorance of his family, friends, society and Christians around him — presently!
Sisters and Brothers, we have not so learned Jesus Christ!
There were more comments like these, unfortunately. And they made me want to vomit.
“If Christians cannot extend grace through faithful presence within the body of believers, they will not be able to extend grace to those outside.”
~ James Davison Hunter
I remember reading a book by Watchman Nee in my youth. In it, Nee made the remark that he observed a certain pattern throughout his life. Every time someone judged another person harshly for a mistake they made or because of something that went wrong in their lives, sometime later, the person who made those harsh judgments had something far worse happen to them.
Having been a Christian for over 30 years now, I’ve observed the same pattern.
Consequently, I fear for those who made these deplorable remarks. The Scriptures clearly teach that how we treat others is how the Lord will treat us. And if we have the knife out for one of His children, we will eventually end up falling on it ourselves.
Paul said you will reap what you sow. That’s written in the heavens.
So be very, very careful how you respond to someone else’s tragedy, mistakes, pain, or loss.
I read the New Testament once and Jesus taught that the entire Law and the Prophets is fulfilled in this one statement: Treat others the way you want to be treated in every circumstance.
Ergo, how would YOU want to be treated if you lost a child?
How we respond to bad things that happen to others (be they tragedies, failures, or pain) is a barometer that reveals how well we know our Lord. In fact, there may be no greater test.
Let’s keep the Warren family in our prayers and in our thoughts.”
I find such comments mentioned by those whom Frank speaks about appalling. I find such people who advocates us trying to obey the big 10 forgetting the one that really matters. Love one another as I have loved you.
I am sorry I am intolerant today. I find myself disturbed. What have we become?
My heart goes out to the family. I know of a person who lost his Son too. I pray that His peace and arms surround the Warren’s.
I want to share a most wonderful article on what happens to people who committed suicide by Paul Ellis, one of the very few sane voices in this time of sorrow.
“What do you say to the parents of a Christian teenager who has just killed himself? I faced this situation several years ago and, I have tell you, it’s not easy. Premature death is hard to handle at any time but suicide leaves loved ones bewildered at its senselessness.
It seems the subject of suicide is one of those sensitive issues that Christians don’t like to talk about. That’s probably because most of us don’t have anything good to say! Ask a believer, “What happens to Christians who kill themselves?” and you’ll likely get one of the following responses:
1. They go to hell because they never repented for the sin of murder.
2. It’s not up to us to judge – we don’t know what happens.
3. It’s a grave sin but God will somehow take care of it in his mysterious ways.
None of these responses brings much comfort to those who are left behind. But happily none of these responses is true! Let’s compare each response with what the Bible says.
What does the Bible say about those who commit suicide?
First, do people who commit suicide go to hell? Not if they’re saved. Revelations 21:8 tells us that the lake of fire – whatever that is – will be full of murderers. But you don’t end up in the lake of fire because you are a murderer (see Rev 20:15). If murder sent you to hell, King David would be a goner. But it doesn’t and he isn’t.
But didn’t God say, “Thou shalt not murder”? He did – it’s the sixth commandment and part of the law. Do you know what the penalty for law-breaking is? Jesus said anyone who breaks the law is in danger of hellfire (Mt 5:22). But his words were directed to those who were born under law – not you (Rm 6:14). When Jesus went to the cross he fulfilled the requirements of the law on your behalf so that you might live free from its curse. Don’t look at your own obedience for salvation; look at his. On the cross Jesus carried the sins of the world and now you are completely and eternally forgiven.
But what about repentance? Don’t we have to repent in order to receive forgiveness? Isn’t this the stumbling block for those who kill themselves – that they never repent? No. We are not forgiven on the basis of anything we do or don’t do. We are forgiven because of what Jesus has done:
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace. (Eph 1:7)
In God’s eyes you are forgiven whether you repent or don’t repent. To say, you must repent to be forgiven, is to cheapen the riches of His grace. The blood of Jesus paid for the sins of the whole world – including the unrepentant and suicidal (1 Jn 2:2). This isn’t to say that the whole world is saved, for we all need to respond to the grace of God by faith (Eph 2:8). Everyone is forgiven but not everyone has received the gift of his righteousness (Rms 1:17). But we are talking here about people who are saved when they die. Can a Christian nullify God’s forgiveness by committing suicide? No – it’s impossible. God’s gifts are irrevocable.
Second, to say, “we don’t know what happens to Christians who kill themselves” merely reveals an ignorance of God’s promises. We do know what happens. They go to be with Jesus (Jn 3:16, 14:3). Some say that “suicide is a grave sin.” Is there any sin that’s not?
The good news is that God’s grace is greater than our gravest sins; His best is better than our worst (Rms 5:20). Just as we are not qualified by our good deeds, neither are we disqualified by our bad (see Col 1:12). We were condemned by Adam’s disobedience but now we have been justified through Christ’s obedience:
So then, just as sin ruled by means of death, so also God’s grace rules by means of righteousness,leading us to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rms 5:21, GNB)
Third, to offer vague comfort by saying, “God will take care of it in some mysterious way,” is to insult the finished work of the cross. Take care of it? He already did! He came and died and rose again that we might have resurrection life:
“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.” (Jhn 11:25)
Look closely at this promise of Jesus and see if you can find any conditions pertaining to the means of death. There are none! The way in which you shrug off your earth-suit has absolutely no bearing on his promise of resurrection life. Whether you die in a house fire, from an over-dose, or go down with the Titanic, Jesus said,He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.
The main thing
For those who are left behind, suicide hits like a Mack truck. But allow me to bring some perspective to this issue. The single most important fact of your life is not where you were born or how you die, but whether you believe in Jesus – whether you have put your trust in him and confessed him as Lord.
You can be born a prince and die on a field of glory, but unless you know Jesus it’s all for naught. Conversely, you can be born a nobody and die a nobody but if Jesus knows you, all is eternally well! If you have lost someone to suicide and they belonged to Jesus, all is not lost! You will be with them again. Believe what God has promised and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
It is beyond the scope of this post to discuss those things that might drive a believer to suicide. Perhaps you find it inconceivable that someone acquainted with the goodness of God would ever consider ending their lives. But only God knows the depth of pain that some of our brothers and sisters have to endure in this world.
The teenager I mentioned at the top of this post took his own life because he was the ongoing victim of a sexual predator and he could see no other way out. Who am I to say that I would’ve chosen differently if I had been in his shoes? I’m not trying to justify suicide. I’m saying I can’t condemn those who, for reasons I cannot fathom, choose death over life.
It’s too late to help that young man but it’s not too late to comfort his parents and those of you who’ve lost loved ones to suicide. Maybe you have heard words of condemnation or hollow comfort. Maybe you’ve been be told that the one you lost is lost for eternity. If so, I encourage you to find rest in the grace of our loving Father and to cultivate the same conviction as Paul:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rms 8:38-9)”