Aaron Hernandez was found dead in his prison cell this past Wednesday, April 19, 2017, from an apparent suicide. Hernandez was serving a life sentence for a 2013 murder conviction. He had been acquitted of a double murder from 2012 just five days before, and was in the process of appealing his 2013 conviction.
He seemed to have much to be hopeful about, so some who knew him personally find it difficult to believe he died by his own hand. And while an investigation is being conducted, it is equally difficult to believe he was murdered and his suicide was staged. There appears to have been no suicide note, but law enforcement sources said the Bible verse John 3:16 was written across his forehead.
The notoriety that attended the former NFL star’s highly publicized trial places his reported suicide prominently in the public consciousness. What does the Bible say about suicide?
Just this past week my daily Scripture reading included the account of Ahithophel who was a counselor to Absalom when he tried to usurp the throne from his father King David. “Now when Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his donkey and arose and went to his home, to his city, and set his house in order, and strangled himself,” 2 Samuel 17:23.
This is one of seven suicides recorded in the Bible. They run the spectrum from Judas who betrayed Christ to Samson whose name is included in the Bible’s Faith Hall of Fame, Hebrews 11:32. Oddly, the Scriptures do not directly condone or condemn suicide.
Some scholars claim suicide is self-murder, but that has always seemed to be a strained application of the Sixth Commandment to me. Yet to the degree one’s rationality is unimpaired and an act of the will, suicide can never be said to be an act of faith, and is in that respect a sin.
To me the greater question would be, is it forgivable? Some argue since one cannot ask forgiveness after killing oneself it is damnable. That position seems just as strained to me as the idea of self-murder, that is, that our forgiveness is more dependent on our request for it than on God’s mercy.
I think the grace of God extends to the one whose extreme circumstances may render him confused and irrational enough to do something in a thoughtless moment of desperation he would not normally consider.
Since the Scriptures do not condone the practice, neither should we, lest we encourage it, nor should we condemn what the Scriptures do not condemn lest we rob others of their hope in a merciful God.
“The Judge of all the earth” will “deal justly,” Genesis 18:25. Only God knows what is in the heart and mind at the moment of one who takes his own life, and He is an omniscient and benevolent God. It is the best that I can say in good conscience, but it is the best anyone could hope for.