I know that there’s already been quite a bit said about suicide on this site, but I’d like to add my own two cents, and this from the standpoint of an ordained pastor who is called to step into these situations as a representative of Jesus Christ—to actually try my best not to make the situation worse.

During my summer of clinical pastoral education (something required of most seminarians), on my second night of rounds as a newly minted hospital chaplain, I was summoned to the critical care unit. A young man had been brought in with a terminal gunshot wound to the head, an obvious suicide. In the waiting room, I met the father and a person I assumed was the brother, but he wasn’t. He was the victim’s boyfriend. The two were not speaking. The family’s beliefs didn’t allow them to accept their son’s sexual orientation, and they were now afraid that this rejection had played a role in his suicide. I could see fear seizing the father. In his mind, suicide was the unforgivable sin.

Mark 3:29, the verse about “blaspheming the Holy Spirit” being the “unforgivable sin,” is actually one of the sources for this belief that suicide is an unforgivable sin. The thought was that this is a sin of throwing away the gift of life, one in which there is no chance for repentance and forgiveness—so this, suicide, must be what it means to blaspheme the Holy Spirit. This interpretation, of course, ignores Mark’s note in the very next verse: Jesus is clearly speaking to the scribes from Jerusalem, who had made their decision to reject the Christ, and thus to reject the Spirit of God that is so evident in Christ; to instead lead themselves and others astray by scoffing at it, and claiming that the source of this work of the Holy Spirit was actually the work of an unclean spirit.

But such an understanding of suicide is also to miss the very real mental health component in suicide’s path, the fact that suicide is part of a much larger disease, and that God would never curse a person for simply being sick. After all the times that Christ healed those who were suffering, why in the world would God condemn a poor suffering suicide victim to an eternity of suffering?

Just consider for a moment the story of Adam and Eve’s transgression in the Garden of Eden. There, Adam and Eve haven’t just committed a sin; they have committed the only sin that exists in their world at this moment. They have done the one thing that God specifically instructed them not to do. All they had to do to stay in God’s good graces was to not do the one thing, and they failed even at that. And how does God handle them? Like a parent! Like a good father, God asks them, “What have you done?”—knowing full well that what they did was to directly disobey him. But instead of answering his own question, God lets the narrative of their wrongdoing unfold in their own time, much as a parent handles a child who needs to say for themself what they did.

And what does Adam do in answering God? He does what a typical child would do: blame someone else. Look more closely, though, at what Adam says to God: “The woman who you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” So, who is Adam blaming? In saying the woman who you gave to be with me, he’s putting the blame back on God as the parent. What comes next is simply what happens to a child when they have broken the rules. There are consequences. Parents love their child and may wish that there didn’t have to be consequences for misbehavior, but there are, and when the parent doles out those consequences, it does not change the love that the parent has for the child.

Nothing can shake the parental love for a child.

That’s what Jesus describes further down in that same chapter from Mark, when he says, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” The root of our relationship with God is familial, just as it was for Adam and Eve. And just like Adam and Eve, no matter what we may do, no matter how badly we may screw up, there is nothing we can do so bad that God would turn his back on us. In fact, it could be said that God is an irresistible Father to us.

This is an idea that I’ve written about before. It was an idea that came to me while watching Russell Crowe’s The Water Diviner. In the movie, Crowe portrays an Australian farmer, Joshua Connor, who allows his three sons to enlist with the ANZAC troops in World War I. All three are together at the Battle of Gallipoli, they go missing and are presumed dead. Four years later, Connor vows to find their bodies and bring them home. The reason he could do so is because he is a water diviner. He possesses an innate ability to sense the insensible, and he applies his sixth sense to the problem of locating his lost children. And this is where the movie takes on its Christian theme, because this is where Joshua Connor becomes the irresistible Father who goes searching for his lost children.

After three months, Connor arrives in Istanbul, and from there he bribes a fishing boat captain to transport him to Gallipoli. Possessing nothing but his eldest son’s diary, knowing only the date of their disappearance, Connor is convinced that he can find them. A Turkish officer who was present at the battle, Major Ihsan, is the only one who takes Connor seriously. The British officer in charge has already planned for a supply ship to take Connor back to Istanbul, and he is content to see Connor rot on the beach in the meantime.

A most telling scene unfolds: Major Ihsan asks the British officer why they won’t help Connor to search for his sons. The officer quips that he can’t go about helping every father who won’t stay put and let the authorities handle the matter. Major Ihsan looks up from his tea at the officer, and he replies, “Yes, but he is the only father who came looking.”

God is the Father who will not give up on us, who comes searching for us. We tend to have it in our minds that we go searching after God, but this is not so: God searches for us. God comes after us with an irresistible grace that we could never earn; he seeks us out because we mean so much to him, even when we have absolutely failed, even in the times we’re afraid to be found. And like Connor’s sons, we’re but mute corpses that can only accept the Father’s love in seeking after us. When it comes to earning God’s love, there is nothing that we do! Or, in the terms of the Genesis story, even when we absolutely fail, God seeks to make us his family. Luther called this the iustitia passiva, the passive justification, and this love will never be taken away from us.

The Father in his irresistible grace comes searching after us, he meets us where we are in all our filth and failure, and he brings us into a relationship with him, doing so through his son’s atoning death and resurrection. The Father’s seeking after us in our dead state is the reason he sent Christ in the first place, to redeem us, even when our plight seems irredeemable to us.

There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God, not even breaking the one rule in the Garden, and definitely not suicide. God’s love for us is far too great for it to ever be broken by anything that we do. He proved this love in that while we were yet sinners, he saved us.