Discussions of suicide have continued since meeting Matthew Sleeth, author of the Hope Always book. Just last weekend I was with Dane, my brother, and we discussed the topic. He works in IT at the University of Kentucky Healthcare and their staff was invited on November 29th . The gist of their webinar was hidden in the title. You have to ask the question. What that meant is that in years past, if you wanted to discuss suicide or even suicidal tendencies, you sorta beat around the bush. But the doctors in the webinar now insisted that you must be direct. You have to ask the question, “Are you considering suicide?”
In Sleeth’s book, he created a scale to help novices like me to understand that not every bad thought is going to generate a life-endangering situation. I’m just enough of a nerd to love scales. It’s not quite black and white if you’ve got different levels. For instance, if “zero” is just being normal, then moving into negative territory lends to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. When it gets really near the point of action states that the person has developed a plan and set a date. Sleeth added a -10 for those that not only plan to commit suicide, but take others with them as they die. Keep that level in mind for later on. There is a count point to it.
But for a negative part of the scale is the positive side of the scale. The very first Positive One on the scale is “Beginning of concern for others.” I’ve learned over the years that getting your eyes off yourself is always a blessing to you and to others. Moving on up the scale was a Positive Eight for operating outside of your comfort zone for others. In other words, acting like a missionary. And then Sleeth added a Positive 10 that really connected with me. It read, “Sacrificially giving one’s life for others (i.e., dying to save another). Jesus said in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
That answers a huge question for me as I was considering the death of, say Samson or even Jesus. Did God endorse suicide by restoring Samson’s power? I would say that God answered Samson’s prayer so that Samson could die to help his kinsman overcome the oppression of the Philistine officials. These enemy leaders all died in the temple collapse that killed Samson, too. (See Judges 16:28-30.)
Hear me out. Jesus did not commit suicide by dying on the cross. He gave His life as an act that met the need for a blood sacrifice. He sacrificed Himself for the good of all who would follow Him, thereby fulfilling God’s redemptive plan. (See 2 Corinthians 5:15.) And, praise God, Jesus didn’t stay dead. Jesus knew in advance that His death would end in life.
Today, many give their lives for many good causes. They are sacrificial without being suicidal. We see that sacrifice in the school teachers who put themselves between their students and the gunman at the door. We see it in a military operation where the odds of success are very low, but the cause is very high. They understand and believe fully in giving their life for others.
So, go ahead and ask the question: Does the person intend to commit suicide? But be ready for different points on a scale that could reveal a progression that can be stopped and even reversed so that their precious life could become a norm that Sleeth calls, “a series of lifelong sacrificial choices.” (41).
--Mark Snowden directs the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association.