Is Suicide The Unforgivable Sin?

I love travel documentaries and one of my favourites has been, “Parts Unknown” on CNN hosted by Anthony Bourdain. You can imagine my surprise when I heard that Anthony was found dead by suicide this past Friday June 8th2018. According to his mother, Anthony had everything to live for. “He is absolutely the last person in the world I would have ever dreamed would do something like this,” Gladys Bourdain told the New York Times.

Another celebrity, Kate Spade, sounded happy the night before her body was found in her New York City apartment last Tuesday morning. “There was no indication and no warning she would do this,” her husband Andy Spade said in a heart-wrenching statement published in the Times.

For more than four decades Antoon Leenaars has tried to construct a theory to explain why people kill themselves. Among his findings is that those who die by suicide are often tragically gifted at concealing their true intentions, even from themselves. “We find it in the suicide notes and in the psychological autopsies,” said Leenaars, a Windsor psychologist whose archive of more than 2,000 suicide notes is believed the largest collection of its kind in the world. “There’s both a conscious and unconscious intent to be deceptive, to hide, to mask,” he said.

I think that’s why, for the most part, we are often surprised when someone takes their own life. I haven’t personally experienced a close friend or family member commit suicide, yet I have been around many others who have had close friends or family take their lives, and I can tell you that it can be terribly confusing and heartbreaking. For the friends and family of that person who has taken their own lives, grief can be like a wild animal inside, thrashing to get out. There are times It won’t be contained, spilling out in sobs and screams, while at other times it turns inward, causing those left behind to desperately examine every interaction over the weeks and days preceding their loved one’s death, wondering what they could have done differently. It’s a terrible place to be.

Does the bible say anything about committing suicide?

Is suicide the unforgivable sin? Does the person who self kills go immediately to hell? Within the church community, this controversial topic has unfortunately often been addressed in emotional ways, not through biblical analysis. For example, for those who grew up Roman Catholic the prevailing view is that suicide is definitely a mortal sin, irretrievably sending people to hell. Influenced by the arguments of Augustine and Aquinas, this belief dominated through the Reformation. This of course causes much angst and problems for the survivor to process through. As a result, the approach is most often an emotional one. Besides this traditional position of the Catholic Church, we encounter three others:

1) A true Christian would never commit suicide since God wouldn’t allow it.

2) A Christian may commit suicide but would lose his salvation.

3) A Christian may commit suicide without losing his salvation.

As purposeful as those statements are, we still need to ask what the Bible, not tradition or opinion says. As much as we don’t have all the answers, let’s begin by talking about those truths we do know as revealed in God’s Word.

We know that humanity is totally depraved (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:10-18). Of course, we should understand that this doesn’t mean we’re as evil as we could be, but rather that every human capacity – intellect, heart, emotions, will – is tainted by sin. We also know that even after regeneration, a Christian is capable of committing any sin except the unforgiveable one. We see the unforgivable sin mentioned in Mark 3:25-32 and Matthew 12:32. A study of these passages leads us to the conclusion that they are referring to the continual rejection of the Holy Spirit in the work of conversion, ultimately referring to a committed unbeliever.

I think that it’s important to remember as well, that a believer is quite capable of taking the life of someone else, as David did in the case of Uriah, without this action invalidating his salvation. After all, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross has forgiven all of our sin – past, present, and future (Colossians 2:13-14; Hebrews 10:11-18). Still, suicide is a serious offense against God because it represents arrogant violation of the gift of life the Creator has given. However, if a genuine believer is theoretically capable of taking another’s life, why is it impossible to conceive he or she could ever take his or her own?

The truth is that the sin a Christian will commit tomorrow was forgiven at Calvary – where Jesus justified us, declaring us positionally righteous. He accomplished this work through one single offering that didn’t need to be repeated again. On the cross Jesus didn’t make us justifiable; he made us justified (Romans 3:23-26; 8:29-30).

Granted, some point out that Scripture contains no instance of a believer committing suicide, while it includes many cases of unbelievers doing so, thus coming to the conclusion that believers simply don’t (won’t) commit suicide. But this is an argument from silence. Scripture doesn’t explicitly mention many things in life. Moreover, some hold suicide robs a Christian of her salvation because it doesn’t provide an opportunity for repentance. But if you were to die right now, would there be any unconfessed sin in your life? I think that we could only say that yes, of course there would be.

The sacrifice that covers the unconfessed sins we have remaining until death is the same sacrifice that would cover a sin like suicide. Suicide is not what determines whether a person gains entrance into heaven anyways. If an unsaved person commits suicide, she has done nothing but “expedite” her journey to hell. However, that person who committed suicide will ultimately be in hell for rejecting salvation through Christ, not because she committed suicide. “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” – John 3:18

We should also point out, however, that no one truly knows what was happening in a person’s heart the moment he died. Some people have “deathbed conversions” and accept Christ in the moments before death. It is possible that Anthony Bourdain could have had a last-second change of heart and cry out for God’s mercy, we don’t know, but if he did, we can know that God’s mercy would have reached him even there.

Back to our original question. Issuicide the unforgivable sin? If we’ve established that a Christian is capable of committing any sin, why can’t we conceive that someone could commit the sin of suicide? And if we believe Jesus’ blood is capable of forgiving any sin, wouldn’t his blood cover this sin too? The wonderful truth of the matter is that if Jesus’ sacrifice has made believers perfect forever (look up Hebrews 7:28-10:14), could any sin remove their salvation? Based on scripture, I’d have to say a resounding no – including suicide.

Further to this point, if someone like Moses (and Job, and Elijah, and Jeremiah) came to a point where he wished God would take his life, couldn’t a believer with schizophrenia or extreme depression, who lacks Moses’ strength of character, make this wish a reality? Martin Luther believed that a true believer could be oppressed by demonic powers and thus driven to the point of suicide. The suicide of a believer is evidence that anyone can struggle with despair and that our enemy, Satan, is “a murderer from the beginning” – John 8:44

Having said that, on the basis of Scripture, history, and the experience of God’s people – as well as the indwelling Spirit and the means of grace in the church – it’s most likely that suicides will be rare (though not impossible) for genuine believers.

How should we respond to a survivor?

Even still, when a suicide does occur, we should seek to comfort, not accuse. Instead of identifying the horrors we should seek to comfort the hurting. Our chief focus should be on that about which God has said much (salvation), not on that about which he’s said little (suicide).

Sometimes the best thing we can say to a survivor (friend or family member of someone who took their own life) is NOTHING! In fact, sometimes the best reaction is no words at all, but a hug. There is much comfort that comes with the caring presence of friends, and the assurance others are praying for them. Even still, if you do feel led to say anything, here are some examples you can use that I have found helpful as I have come along side those who are hurting.

“Tell me a favourite memory of…”

“I love you, and my prayers are with you.”

“How can I help you today?” (Following through with errands, grocery shopping, cleaning, going to church with them, etc.)

“I am so sorry for your loss. Words fail.”

“I’m here.”

The best advice to anyone who wants to comfort a suicide survivor is: “Show up, let them see you care, and respect the griever’s right to feel bad for a while (guilt, anger, sadness, etc.). Too many survivors reported “friends” who avoided them altogether after their loved ones’ suicides rather than to risk saying the wrong thing. Please don’t do that, because that hurts most of all.

6 Ways To Affair Proof Your Marriage

Infidelity is one of the most painful and devastating experiences that a married person can encounter! Around the world, it is universally accepted as grounds for divorce and is even a legally accepted justification for murder in some states and many societies. Secular movies, television and books often depict infidelity in a humorous fashion but people impacted by infidelity are invariably shaken to the very core of who they are!

The Bible warns those who are married against extra marital affairs and in fact it seems to be so important to God that he posts them in the ten commandments twice; in Exodus 20:14 & 17. “You shall not commit adultery.” (vs 14), and “You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.” (vs 17).

We may read this and not think that it is of any consequence to us, and yet statistics indicate that in the coming years many of us will be involved in affairs ourselves; either as the one betrayed or the betrayer.

Studies vary regarding the percentages who cheat ranging everywhere from 10% to over 75% but no matter the percentage the truth is that anything over 0% is too high. The actual percentage probably falls somewhere around the 25% – 30% range, and the Christian community is not immune. Carol Botwin, author of Men Who Can’t Be Faithful says: “Although some earlier studies indicated that men who were religious were more likely to remain monogamous, other, more recent studies have shown that religious men are as apt to have affairs as those who never enter a church. That goes for some religious leaders too.”

Charles Mylander, evangelical pastor, and author of Running The Red Lights says: “Christians may fall into extramarital affairs even when they are not looking for them. Too often well-meaning believers make unwise moves and suddenly realize they are in love with someone other than their spouse. The revelation…’If only I had known what was happening…’ dawns too late.”

Reasons for infidelity range all over the map. We can have unrealistic expectations that our relationship will always be the way it was in the early days of marriage and so cease to work at it. Or there is the belief that ‘if my spouse really loves me, he or she will know what I want without my needing to ask.’ Maybe there is extraordinary work stress or possibly one partner is going through a midlife crisis. Then there has been the increased opportunities for men and women to be alone together, as in work related scenarios. Studies have empirically shown that when persons of the opposite sex are in constant contact, such regular exposure enhances interpersonal attraction and tempting situations naturally increase.

We also have seen an increase since social media has become commonplace with the reconnecting of old flames. Seeing an old friend or flame from years ago on Facebook followed by a pleasant interaction is not wrong in and of itself, however if, because you are old ‘friends’, you feel it’s ok to meet several times alone… (after all it’s only a coffee), that is a recipe for disaster and often leads to more. We also have seen a rise in sexual addiction, especially since there is so much available online. And these are only a few examples, there are many more ways that affairs can start.

So how can we affair proof our marriages? The following five action steps are not fool proof nor are they a cure all for affair proofing a marriage. However, if they are followed together as a couple, your marriage will definitely be made stronger and put in a healthier place so that you can work on any other deep seated issues you may have.

 1  Foster a deep ‘friendship’ love

This is vital to a healthy marriage . A lot of people marry on the basis of romantic feeling (eros – love), but the core of a good marriage is not romantic feeling, but deep friendship (philia – love). The only way you will know if this sort of friendship is a possibility is by spending time together.

Couples do this fairly well before they’re married, it’s called dating or just hanging out or being together. But after you’re married don’t stop. Continue to build on that friendship through-out your marriage relationship. Learn to have fun together and commit to ongoing date nights and the occasional weekend away. Allow your marital friendship to grow such as determining that your spouse should come before your extended family, friends, hobbies and career. Certainly, we all agree that a career is important because it helps to supply the family material needs. However, there are times when a career can become a sort of ‘mistress’ itself. A career is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

And commit to the understanding that your spouse should come before your kids. It is so easy to focus strongly on our kids and yet studies have shown that children feel safest in a family when the husband-wife relationship is the core of the household.

2  Communicate from your heart consistently

Learn to listen to your spouse. Lack of communication is the major problem cited by both men and women impacted by affairs. How can you discover what your spouse really feels and where they are emotionally if you don’t listen to their heart? And how can you expect to resolve conflicts without truly listening? Listening helps to avoid many of those issues to begin with.

The late Harriet Pilpel, who practised family law in New York said, “I have seen a number of women whose husbands, according to them, have simply ‘walked out on them without any warning.’ When I talked further with them it turns out there were serious problems in the marriage. But the (wife) did not confront these issues, no less ask (her) partner to confront them with (her).” Oh, and just in case you’re wondering guys… listening is not just for your wife, that goes for you too, possibly twice as much because most of us guys are naturally poor listeners to begin with.

Communication involves speaking the truth in love and stating clearly and fairly your understanding of the issues as well as how you are feeling about the situation. Never speak with the intention of ‘getting even’ or with the attitude, ‘Wait till I give you a piece of my mind.’ Instead the goal is to open lines of communication, share as clearly as possible, and understand both sides of an issue as best you can.

Speaking the truth in love is really the fairest way of communicating because internalising your feelings hurts you because you are unheard and therefore not honoured. But also remember that keeping your feelings inside hurts your spouse as well; if they don’t hear from you, they are unable to respond (remember, we are not mind readers!).

Don’t avoid the tough or painful issues because the facts are that tough stuff is a reality in everyone’s lives. That’s hard to do because the natural tendency is to avoid hard situations and the pain that comes when we hurt. But the problem with avoidance is that it can cause a lot of other problems, because the pain comes out anyway and only ends up attacking each other. So, it’s better to communicate openly and face the issue and the hurt head on and in unity. This will build your relationship rather than tear it down.

3  Pray with each other often

According to FamilyLife USA, less than 8% of couples surveyed pray together on a regular basis. A Southern Baptist Convention’s poll in 2001 discovered that of Christian couples who actively pray together, the divorce rate is less than one percent. This begs the question: How often do you pray with your spouse? I mean really pray. Don’t include saying grace at supper, that doesn’t count.

The most important communication tool in a healthy relationship is prayer together. Intimacy and openness grows between a couple who are vulnerable enough to honestly spend time in prayer. A couple who prays together – stays together.

4  Mutually fulfill sexual needs

Research finds that an unfulfilling sexual relationship places men in high risk of having an affair. In fact, the number one need of men is sexual fulfilment. Sex is a beautiful gift from God reserved for the couple to procreate along with the mutual pleasure of each other. And by the way, research also shows that the sexual need for men does not diminish with age, in some cases it increases… just saying.

5  Remember your first love

Reminisce often about how and when you and your partner met. What were some of the activities you did together? What was it about your spouse that caused you to fall in love? Get a baby sitter and have a regular date night… just the two of you. Take at least one weekend a year away from everyone and re-engage alone as a couple to explore your love for each other and what that means and how you can grow more in love each year.  “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.” – Proverbs 5:18

6  Learn anti-temptation strategies

Identify personal areas of vulnerability and honestly examine yourself and your relationships to discover those areas which are your weakest link because after all, awareness is half the issue. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” – Psalm 139:23-24

Along with learning anti-temptation strategies make an explicit commitment to fidelity by developing personalised statements that both partners make to each other outlining your love for each other along with your commitment only to each other and then reviewing these commitments often.

Be aware of the high cost of infidelity. Think about the loss of relationship with spouse. trust totally gone, children would be without a mom or dad, reputation is gone, damage to the church and the name of Christ, major financial loss, you can add many more…

But still, the best strategy to guard against temptation is to develop a biblical conscience. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honour.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4

The Bible is very clear regarding affairs…it is sin, but don’t be discouraged if you have ever been unfaithful to your spouse. There is hope for redemption with our father because after all we serve a loving God who offers forgiveness if we humbly come to him and seek repentance.

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” – 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

When a Loved One “Comes Out”

 

Dear sister, perhaps you just received some surprising news.

It could be that your son just showed up at the front door and said, “I’m gay.” Perhaps your sister introduced you to her partner today. Or maybe the friend you’ve known for years tearfully revealed she’s struggling with same-sex attraction. It could be that someone you know is “transitioning,” going by another name and gradually changing their appearance to reflect the opposite gender.

If any one of the scenarios above resembles yours today, you may be feeling despair, ashamed, frustrated, wounded, confused, guilty, betrayed . . . or even angry with God. But in the midst of your emotions and uncertainty, God’s Word offers hope-filled answers for you today.

Seven Truths to Consider

1. Being “quick to listen, slow to speak, slow
to become angry” is always a wise reaction.

It is easy, when emotions are high, to either lash out in anger or (in the name of love) to start throwing out Scriptures toward your loved one. Though sharing truth is right at its proper time, consider it may not be the first thing God is asking you to do. In the heat of the moment, the Bible gives us another way to respond—the way of wisdom:

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:19–20).

The Lord, through James, tells us that a quick, emotional reaction will not change your loved one’s heart. Instead, your efforts to listen to them patiently may be what God uses to help them.

Their decision to tell you probably wasn’t made overnight. It’s more possible that they’ve been wrestling for a while . . . and have been experiencing some deep pain. They may even be expecting you to reject them. Letting them share honestly lets them know they are heard and loved—and will actually help you minister to them better. Their situation may not actually be what you assume, and the Scriptures you initially think they need may not be helpful for their struggle. Are you willing to wisely listen before you speak?

2. Regardless of their choices, your loved one is
made in God’s image and has value and worth.

Here’s some deep, beautiful doctrine: God has graciously placed the imago Dei (image of God) in every person (Gen. 1:27). From the Garden of Eden, each man and woman has been given the privilege of reflecting God and His glory in Creation. Yes, sin—including sexual sin—has caused that image to be displayed imperfectly. But every human being is endowed with the gift of dignity, value, and worth in the eyes of their Creator.

That’s true for the ones who seem most violent and inhuman and the young baby who cannot yet consciously choose to disobey God’s law. Our enemy wants you to forget this truth so you’ll reject and disrespect your loved one . . . because Satan hates God and all who bear God’s image.

Your son changing his name or your cousin coming to Christmas dinner with a same-sex partner doesn’t mean their value before God has diminished. His Creation ordinance still stands—and with it, our need to show all people respect as bearers of God’s image. Recognizing this does not mean approving of all your loved one’s choices, but it does mean approaching them with an attitude of respect.

3. Your and my sin (and need for the gospel)
is the same, no matter our temptations.

We will never fully value and demonstrate the beauty of the gospel until we recognize our own neediness before God. Paul writes about this in Romans. After explaining that God has given His people spiritual advantages, he writes this:

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested . . . the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a giftthrough the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 3:21–24, emphasis added).

If you hold to the biblical teaching on sexuality and don’t struggle with the same temptations, it can be tempting to look at your friend or relative with disgust. But do you look at your own sin and feel as repulsed? God has offered you grace in Christ—His overwhelming gift of love and blessing—because you needed it and couldn’t earn it. Your sin, whether it’s gossip or overeating or anger, needs God’s forgiveness, mercy, and grace as much as your neighbor’s—and that is true if they do practice homosexuality.

If you’re thinking, I do recognize my neediness . . . and it’s overwhelming!, here’s hope: Your neediness is exactly what qualifies you to help others. As you experience your weakness and God’s grace in it, you can then be a humble, effective vessel of God’s mercy toward your loved ones.

4. According to Scripture, embracing their
same-sex desires isn’t God’s best for them . . .

This is one of the hardest truths of Scripture: God is not honored by sexual relationships between people of the same gender. If you’re reading this post, you may already embrace this truth (or you’re wrestling with it). You know verses like Romans 1:26–27, where Paul describes these acts as “dishonorable” and “contrary to nature.” You’ve read the lists of sins elsewhere in the New Testament where the practice of homosexuality is listed as a mark of unrighteousness (1 Cor. 6:9) and “contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:10).

Yes, homosexual acts are sinful. This statement is true, but it’s very tempting to just stop here. There’s more to the story—and it requires more than simply throwing out Bible verses without love as grenades. (Do you see the ellipsis on the header above? Let the next truth finish the thought.)

5. . . . but obedience to God’s commands
and design can be a very hard road.

Consider the implications for your loved one to follow Jesus in their sexuality:

  • They may have to give up someone they are deeply connected with.
  • They may have to give up their community and identity.
  • They may face deep loneliness.
  • They may have seasons of depression and feeling unloved.
  • They may face misunderstanding in the Church and outside.
  • They will probably battle desires that cannot be fulfilled obediently.
  • They may never have a family or children of their own.
  • They may not be able to enjoy the physical intimacy of sex.

Jesus said following Him would be difficult and full of self-denial (Matt. 16:24). You probably feel some of that “cross of discipleship” each day—praying for a prodigal, feeling rejected by friends who want to gossip, submitting to an unwise decision of someone in authority. Let your experiences give you compassion toward your loved one. If they’re struggling against their desires, look at that list and be willing to ask questions about their fears and pain. And if they are pursuing a same-sex relationship, consider that those may be some of the reasons. Can you enter into the difficulty with them? Is there a way, as their mom or sister or friend, that you can you help provide for some of those needs?

6. God desires and is able to restore what
is broken by sin’s curse—including our
sexuality, but it may not happen in this life.

After that last point, you may be feeling heavy-hearted. But there is hope. God “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20). With this truth in your pocket, you can look at your loved one and think, If Jesus is their Savior, He can change them.

That said, while praying and hoping, we have to avoid creating an idol called “completely free from temptation.” God’s plan for your loved one, even if He draws them to Himself, may not mean they’ll experience automatic transformation. They will still struggle with temptation (probably even same-sex attraction). God may have marriage in mind for them; He may not. They could be on a long road of both victories and failings. But the goal is the same for all who follow Christ, whether they experience homosexual feelings or not. God’s purpose for His children is always their sanctification and His glory—not attraction to the opposite gender.

The redemption of our bodies (and your loved one’s sexuality) will not be complete until the day Christ returns. But take heart: In that day, there will be no sin, no temptation, no sorrow, no loneliness, and no pain for all who belong to Him. So as you trust the Lord with your loved one’s situation, remember that He is able to turn it to good, and for His people, He will.

7. Showing Christ-like love means sacrificially seeking
your loved one’s welfare while pursuing God’s glory.

This is where it gets practical and personal. Your loved one (like all of us) needs community, a family . . . and hope. Where better to experience these things than around your dinner table, in your church, and in the everyday stuff of life? This is especially important if they’ve already experienced rejection from others. As you long for their restoration and walk with them, your friendship and love are the most beautiful gifts you can give . . . because it reflects the heart of Jesus.

Our Saviour ate with both the religious and the prostitutes and swindlers of His day. Remember that Jesus didn’t make a distinction in welcoming people into His life based on their behavior, temptations, or lifestyle, as we’re often prone to do. All sorts of people were welcome at His table, because that’s where He taught and displayed the gospel. When the Pharisees questioned Him on the company He kept, He was bold and unashamed:

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9:12–13).

Consider this: If our meals are more of a meeting of self-righteous religiosity than a welcoming feast to a motley crew, are we really reflecting the heart of Jesus? When a loved one says, “I’m gay” or “I’m struggling,” should we not do the same as Christ did—showing hospitality to those who need a family, making room at the table for the outcast, and demonstrating mercy toward sinners?

Perhaps this last truth is difficult for you—it may raise questions in your mind about the implications. Yes, it looks messy. But grace rarely comes in when things are washed-up and clean. You may end up sitting by your loved one’s side in the hospital after a suicide attempt and making room for them in your home (as Rosaria Butterfield once did).

Let’s be honest: Your church friends may judge and look askance at you when your daughter, in a short haircut and men’s clothing, walks through the door. As you show love and share your table with your loved one, you may face the same rejection as Christ did from the Pharisees. But remember, our Lord says, “I came for the ones (including us!) who need my friendship and salvation.” By sacrificing your comfort in this way, you can be God’s means of showing Christ’s grace in the world.

Also know that loving and welcoming does not negate any of the other truths above. We must seek God’s best for our loved ones, which always means honoring Him first. We are never to sacrifice truth, but we also are not to sacrifice love. First John 3:18 says it best: “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

As you work through your own emotions and choose to show Christ’s love, rest in the comforting truths above. And consider . . . our sovereign God is working behind your friend or relative’s confession. They’re sitting next to you for a reason; perhaps you are in their life “for such a time as this” (Est. 4:14).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hayley Mullins

Hayley Mullins

Hayley Mullins is a musician by training, a writer by calling, and a child of God by grace. Her passion is helping people find abundant life in Christ through life-on-life discipleship and the written word. She serves with the Revive Our Hearts team in editorial services. When she’s not writing, you can find Hayley chasing adventures in libraries, on hiking trails, and through deep conversations.

3 Counter Cultural Approaches to Thanksgiving

Today is the day that Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving. Typically, the most common reason for this day is that it is an opportunity to take time out and give thanks and appreciation for what we have.

In Canada it is usually associated with lots of food, turkey, stuffing, football, sleeping, more food, dessert, drinks, family and friends and more food, maybe a sibling fight or two, and the possibility to help serve at a homeless shelter…. Oh yeah, we must not forget the moment when we all share that one thing to be thankful for as we sit around the table, most notably being all the great blessings which we’ve received throughout the year of family, fitness, freedoms, finances, etc.

Now of course that is generalizing, however I think it pretty much summarizes the feel most of us have at our Thanksgiving celebrations. Please don’t get me wrong, I think those things are great (minus the tendency to gluttony and the sibling fight thing), but really, why do we celebrate Thanksgiving? Maybe a better question is what should we be thankful for?

For the disciple of Jesus Christ, I’d like to share 3 non-traditional approaches to being thankful and to what thanksgiving is about, that run counter culture in our world today.

1 We are to be thankful in all circumstances, even in the bad stuff

 “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Did you catch that? Give thanks in all circumstances. Thankfulness should be a way of life for us, naturally flowing from our hearts and mouths. That surely doesn’t mean that we should be thankful even during the nasty bits of life – or does it?

We often look to Thanksgiving Day as a day to celebrate all the good things that are going on in our lives and we don’t or won’t talk about the bad stuff. But the truth is that for us Christians we need to give thanks even in spite of the bad stuff.

“I will exalt you, O Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. O Lord my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. O Lord, you brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down into the pit. You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever” – Psalm 30:1-2

Here David gives thanks to God following an obviously difficult circumstance. This psalm of thanksgiving not only praises God in the moment but remembers God’s past faithfulness. It is a statement of God’s character, which is so wonderful that praise is the only appropriate response. David always wanted God to receive glory and for God to be made known – to be made famous.

There are examples of believers’ thankfulness in the New Testament as well. Paul was heavily persecuted, yet he wrote, “Thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him” – 2 Corinthians 2:14

Peter gives a reason to be thankful for grief and all kinds of trials,” saying that, through the hardships, our faith “may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed” – 1 Peter 1:6-7

In each of these moments the writer, while in distress is giving glory to God, making him famous. They are revealing a faithful, worthy, amazing God to the world around them in how they react with thanksgiving in all circumstances… even the bad times.

When we react and respond to the stuff going on in our lives, what do we reveal about God?

2 We are to be thankful because of God’s constant goodness, not with my happiness

Paul wrote, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose”. – Romans 8:28

God works in all things, not just isolated instances, for our good. That doesn’t mean that all that happens to us is good. Evil is prevalent in our fallen world, but God is able to turn everything around for our long-range good.

It’s important to note btw, that Paul isn’t saying that God’s will is to make us happy. Paul isn’t saying, believe in yourself which is the path to realizing that you can be all that God has meant you to be. Nor is he saying that you can realize a better you. No – God’s will isn’t to make us happy, but rather to fulfill his purpose.

Notice also that this promise isn’t for everybody. It can be claimed only by those who love God and are called according to his purpose. ‘Called’ meaning, those who the Holy Spirit has convicted of their sins and has enabled to become disciples of Jesus Christ, and so have a new perspective, a new mindset on life.

A true disciple of Jesus’ trusts in God, not life’s treasures; they look to heaven for their security, not to the things on earth. And they learn to accept, not resent pain and persecution because they have learned to trust in God’s ultimate plan, knowing that God hasn’t stopped being good simply because the circumstances of life surrounding them have become difficult.

3 We are to be thankful because of Jesus’ sacrifice even if my life isn’t fun

If we really understand what Jesus sacrifice on the cross meant we’d naturally become thankful every day and live lives full to the brim with gratefulness even if our lives seem to be heading south, because Jesus sacrifice gives us an eternal picture when understood, that clearly sees the future with him, taking our focus off the temporal today. In fact, this is precisely why we celebrate the Lord’s supper. It is a thanksgiving celebration if there ever was one.

The Last Supper was both a Passover meal and the last meal Jesus had with his apostles before his arrest and subsequent crucifixion. One of the important moments of the Last Supper is Jesus’ command to remember what he was about to do on behalf of all mankind, which was to shed his blood on the cross thereby paying the debt of our sins.

Keep in mind that this tied in with the Passover feast which was an especially holy event for the Jewish people in that it remembered the time when God spared them from the plague of physical death in Egypt.

The Last Supper was a significant event and proclaimed a turning point in God’s plan for the world. In comparing the crucifixion of Jesus to the feast of Passover, we can readily see the redemptive nature of Christ’s death. As symbolized by the original Passover sacrifice in the Old Testament, Christ’s death atones for the sins of his people; His blood rescues us from death and saves us from slavery.

“And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He said, ‘Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ And He took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.’ And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood’” – Luke 22:17-20

Jesus’ was linking his death to the offering of the Passover sacrifice. The Passover lamb was the animal God directed the Israelites to use as a sacrifice in Egypt on the night God struck down the firstborn sons of every household.

This was the final plague God issued against Pharaoh, and it led to Pharaoh releasing the Israelites from slavery. After that fateful night, God instructed the Israelites to observe the Passover Feast as a lasting memorial.

Just as the Passover lamb’s applied blood caused the “destroyer” to pass over each household, Christ’s applied blood causes God’s judgment to pass over sinners and gives life to believers.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6:23

As the first Passover marked the Hebrews’ release from Egyptian slavery, so the death of Christ marks our release from the slavery of sin.

“For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death”. – Romans 7:5

When we recognize the nature of our depravity and understand that, apart from God, there is only death, our natural response is to be grateful for the life he gives.

As our society becomes increasingly secular, the actual “giving of thanks to God” during our annual Thanksgiving holiday is being overlooked, leaving only the feasting.

May God grant that he may find us grateful every day for all of his gifts, spiritual and material. Remember as we celebrate this season that God is good, and every good gift comes from him. May he find us to be his grateful children.

Are We Taking Our Responsibilities Seriously As Members Of God’s Family?

When my children were much younger I understood that at least once a year I would suffer the agony of a required family duty, a responsibility that brought no joy and in fact brought with it much pain and suffering. But I did it willingly, putting on my nice persona, pasting a grin on my face even though in reality I would be aching on the inside, my energy completely sapped from my bones, all before it even began. But I did it because it was my responsibility as a valued member of the Savage family. So what was this much dreaded chore? It was the annual elementary school Christmas concert.

Each year I’d find myself sitting in front of a bunch of kids I didn’t know for what seemed like agonising hours, listening to many failed attempts at singing, much poor acting, and long minutes of waiting for the grade eight class who looked after the sound equipment and lights, to catch up to the performance.

The funny thing is that I would actually book off a good portion of my day on purpose for this agonising feast of the senses. The reason I showed up and endured was for the sake of my kid (and because my wife told me I needed to be there). The thing is that once I was there, I was definitely going to make sure that I was ready for my child to walk out on that stage, because I’d been waiting, counting down all the other performances until my child was finally, gratefully next.

I knew that near the end of the performance, and it always seems to be at the end (why can’t my kid ever be first?), when they would be up there in all his or her glory. And when that moment finally arrived I knew that the room would light up, and I would be so proud of my child, because in my eyes at least, my kid was proclaiming to the world that they were an amazing member of the Savage clan and I’d always tell them, “Well done!” – every single time. 

In the end I knew that my responsibility as a suffering dad would prove to be worth it because each time I would leave feeling privileged to have experienced the concert my child had been a part of.

My children learned very early on that they were loved unconditionally as my kids. This allowed them to grow up confident of their place within the family circle. But there were moments (such as times of complaining regarding a chore or two) where I’d remind them that though they were privileged to be a part of the ‘Savage’ family, they also had responsibilities.

The responsibilities for them certainly included chores around the house, but it also meant representing the ‘Savage’ name well outside the walls of the home. Why? Because their actions ultimately reflected who their parents were to the rest of humanity.

A child tells us a lot about the parent, isn’t that right? As you observe the behaviour of a child you learn a lot about the discipline (or lack of it) at home. In many ways the child ‘broadcasts’ the parent and makes the parent known to the rest of the world. 

As members of God’s family, we enjoy a position in the universe that is without equal. But with the privileges we enjoy we need to ‘own’ our responsibility and recognise who we are representing. Jesus said that we are to, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16

Jesus put it like this, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Why should we do all this? … “So that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:43-45

That is why we have to do things that might not be easy or natural – even radical, such as loving the other members of our family – our brothers and sisters – who might not be easy to get along with, even loving those considered to be enemies. And being members of God’s family also means that we need to own the responsibilities of serving others without thought of return, esteeming others better than self, loving the other members of the body of Christ like nobody’s business even if they aren’t lovable, and dying to self because that’s just what we do. And why? All this so that we may be like our heavenly father, and so that we may proclaim the family name, so that the family name becomes really really famous.

To purchase this great resource click here: 

The next time you are uncertain about your responsibility in any given situation as a member of the family of God, ask – Is this the sort of thing worthy of my Father’s name? Is it consistent with the family to which I’m a part of? Is this honouring our family name and more importantly is it honouring our father who has stamped his name on us and who we’re representing here in the world?

Whenever we step out onto the world stage, whether that be on our way to work, at Starbucks getting our grande non-fat americano misto, heading to church to worship with others, or serving our neighbour next door or on the other side of the world, remember that our heavenly father is there waiting for us to step out to shine our lights before this dark dark world, in order to proclaim to that world that we are responsible members of God’s clan, pointing people to his son Jesus and in the end hearing from our heavenly father, “Well done!”

“Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” – Matthew 25:23