ON The Edge Of Life
By Phil Scovell
We were on an all church picnic. It was a Saturday and a
beautiful time of year. Yes, Omaha, Nebraska had beautiful weather
occasionally and this afternoon was one. Perhaps the only one of the
year but I remember how comfortable that afternoon was in early fall.
After eating, a friend of mine and I took a walk around the park.
We were in our early teens and Ryan was one of the few church kids who
literally took the time to become a friend after I lost my sight.
Later, in public high school, we would tandem ride his Honda
motorcycle to school, me holding on to the riding strap between us to
keep from falling off, while holding my attach case with the other
hand and my fiberglass white cane tucked under my arm. We went to
youth group meetings together, rode his motorcycle home in the dark
when it was 20 degrees, and often spent Sunday afternoons together
after church. We would later share some high school classes together
and Ryan was one of my volunteer high school readers.
I don't recall anything of our conversation in the park that day
but it most certainly was light in nature. School would be starting
again in a few days, I would be leaving during the week to attend the
Nebraska school for the blind, otherwise officially known at the time
as the Nebraska School for the Visually Impaired, and Ryan, of course,
would be attending public school in Omaha. We still would see each
other on weekends at church as we attended Sunday school class
together and sat in the services together. It was my last two years
of high school that I returned to public school and Ryan and I would
become even better friends. Brothers might be more like it.
So, as we are walking and visiting, we parallel a wall about
waist high. We stop. Our conversation continues. My right hand is
resting on top of the wall. On a whim, and for absolutely no
particular teenage reason, I climbed up on top of the low wall and
hung my feet over the opposite side. Ryan stayed where he was and we
continued talking. Thinking this wall was just a part of the park the
divided one area from another, I consider jumping down and walking in
the collected falling crispy crunching leaves as we talked. Just
before dropping off the wall, I said, "Hey, Ryan? What's on the other
side of this wall?"
Ryan said nonchalantly, "A little creek."
"Really?" I said with amazement. Frankly, I wondered if he might
"Yep," he replied.
His voice sounded sincere but just to be sure, I said, "How far
down is it?"
Ryan leaned against the wall and looked over. "Oh, I'd guess
about 30 feet maybe."
"I laughed nervously. "Man. I'm sure glad I asked."
"Why?" He replied curiously.
"I was getting ready to jump down to walk on the other side."
We both laughed.
This event often comes to mind and has done so throughout my
entire adult life. Of course, spiritually speaking, there are a
number of moral values which can be attributed to the experience such
as, "Be sure to look before you leap," but of course, in this case,
I'm blind, and was at the time, too, so that doesn't seem valid.
Other scenarios might be, "Ask for more information before you make a
decision," "The name of the game is caution," "Some things aren't
worth the risk," "Make certain you know exactly where you are before
going where you think you want to be," or as Bugs Bunny was known to
have once said, or was it Daffy Duck? "Watch out. That first step is
a loo loo." The thoughts which come to my mind, on the other hand,
may, at first, seem misplaced, but let me tell you about them anyhow.
Recently, after eating some pizza for lunch, I switched the radio
next to me on where it sat on my floor to ceiling bookshelves, to
several Christian stations. I quickly drifted off to sleep. I had
only had a couple of hours of sleep the night before so my full
stomach put me almost instantly into a hard slumber.
When I awakened an hour later or so, a great man of God, now gone
home to be with the Lord, was teaching. I have heard his nationally
syndicated radio programs many times over the years and have always
admire him, his ministry, and his theological stand upon the Word of
God. Since I wasn't in any hurry to move, I sat quietly and listened.
I don't recall anything he said until he got to preaching on his
personal opinion about people who commit suicide. I came to life a
little more quickly then, and turned up the radio. After all, for
several years, in my own ministry, I have been asked many many times
about suicide. Why? Because, everyone I pray with is either suicidal
at the time, has attempted it, or thought about it hundreds of times,
as have I throughout my life. Furthermore, killing yourself, in this
country, is a big no no. In fact, it is worse than a big no no.
If you tell the wrong person of your feelings, not your
intentions, just of your suicidal feelings, you may end up in bed,
heavily medicated, and restrained. Oh it doesn't happen that way any
more? Go down to your local hospital, walk in, and tell the lady
behind the desk, or counter, in the Emergency Room that you are going
to kill yourself and see how fast they put you up at the front of the
line ahead of all those other couple hundreds of people seated in the
waiting room with broken legs and arms, chicken wishbones lodged in
their throat, knife fight open bleeding lacerations, gunshot wounds,
women having babies, people injured in car accidents, and sometimes
even one or two unconscious people patiently waiting their turned to
be called on a busy Emergency Room Saturday night. I even know a guy
who, while in a Bible study, innocently mentioned to someone in this
Christian group that he wanted to die and within hours, he was
strapped down to a bed for seven days and put on suicide watch. I
well remember sitting on the other side of a desk from a psychologist
at the hospital who was filling out the forms for me when she stopped
and said, "Now, Philip. I'm going to ask you a couple of questions
that I have to write an answer for. I don't want you to answer right
away but think about the question first. Your answer will make a big
difference on what, by law, I have to do and that is, turn you over to
other medical authorities or even the police. Do you understand what
I am saying?"
"Yes," I said although I already knew what she was going to ask.
"Ok, Philip. Remember. Be cautious with your answers. Do you
now, or have you ever, wanted to kill yourself?"
"No," I lied.
"Have you ever harmed yourself in the process of wanting to take
your own life?"
I wanted to say, "Isn't that question related to the first
question which should have the same answer but instead, I intoned
"And finally," she said with some relief as if air had been
release from an excessively inflated balloon, "Have you ever had
homicidal thoughts or tried to harm anyone?"
My first inclination was to say, "Well, I once tried killing a
psychologist," but I didn't think my humorous side would, under those
conditions, be consider humorous. I wanted to point out, too, that
this was two questions in one and the answer to the first was strictly
related to the second half of the question, in my humble opinion, but
I figured it wasn't time to reinvent the psychological wheel, so I
said, as dully as possible, "No."
Anyhow, all these thoughts suddenly sprang to mind when I heard
this elderly, howbeit, Godly preacher, suddenly teaching on suicide.
I really was interested in what he might have to say because what he
said might be something I could use to encourage other suicidal
people. Boy, was I wrong.
This preacher's voice change, not perceptibly, but
overwhelmingly. He literally became sarcastic. He actually, God as
my witness, began to literally make fun of those, who are so selfish,
they would take their own life. He flatly, and decisively, proclaimed
that all suicidals that were successful in their attempts went
directly to hell. Why? Because they selfishly wanted to escape their
pain. I wish you could have heard his dripping sarcasm as he preached
on this point. My fist was already doubled up and my arm ready to
swing until I remembered he was just on the radio and not standing in
the room. He was far from clarifying his point, unfortunately,
because he continued by contradicting himself.
First he said, God as my witness, "We surely cannot judge any
person or anyone's motives." May I stop momentarily to point out that
he was doing exactly that, judging, as far as it came to suicide?
Secondly, he said, "If the person was insane and committed suicide,
they wouldn't go to hell." This one really threw me for a loop
because how would he know which person was insane and which wasn't at
the time or was he just going to leave that up to God like he should
have done in the first place before passing his theological judgement?
He offered, by the way, not one Scripture for anything he said so take
this theology for what it is worth and that's not very much.
"Thirdly, returning to his sarcastic way of teaching, he said, "The
person committing suicide was committing self murder and murder was
sin." Of course, he failed to quote the Scriptures which even forgive
murderers so that even they, by the grace of God can go to Heaven, but
he didn't quote any other Scriptures either, as I mentioned, so why
bother doing that now.
The upshot of the theological fallacy he taught, was pretty
clear. He believe that suicidal people are selfish, self centered,
stupid people who didn't give a damn about anybody but themselves so
they deserved suffering in hell for eternity, if they killed
themselves, regardless of how much emotional pain they were suffering
on earth. I've heard some pretty poor preaching in my day, some of it
I've even done myself, but this great man of God, and I still consider
him to be one of the all time greats who lived in my life time, had
rocks in his head when it came to this topic. So, let's talk about
suicide since there are some pretty, right down theological stupid
opinions on the topic. Mine certainly can't be any worse than what
you have just heard.
First, let me ask you a question I have asked myself many
hundreds of times, even recently, to be perfectly honest. The short
version is this. How many times can a Christian fail before he is
considered a failure? Now, here is the long version of that same
question. How many times can you fail before God finally throws up
His hands and says, "I freaking give up. You are impossible. All you
care about is yourself. You never once think about me, unless you are
hurting or have gotten yourself into trouble, and I can't remember the
last time you once considered what I've done for you on the cross.
And what about my bodily resurrection? Doesn't that prove anything to
you? Here you are, threatening to kill yourself and I'm the one, for
crying out loud, who gave you life. All you do is mope around, cry,
tell me how much everybody hates you, complain about always being weak
and that you don't have any friends, and worst of all, you hate your
freaking self. Grow up, will you? How many times do I have to prove
that I love you before you get it. Go ahead, then. Kill yourself. I
give up on you but don't come knocking on Heavens gate and waiting for
a positive answer if you pull your own plug because I won't answer."
Excuse me, but does this sound like the same Jesus you know? If it
does, don't feel bad because most suicidals do think a lot like this.
No, it isn't true and never has been but they feel like it is. Why?
Because the dumb ass devil is lying through his teeth to them and a
couple of dumb ass preachers, too, that shall remain nameless. Now,
according to this preacher, and if I mentioned his name, everybody on
the planet reading this article, would know who I am talking about, if
you are crazy, the preacher's term was insane, and you kill yourself,
well, then, by God, that's different. Jesus will forgive you because
you are nuts and you get to go to Heaven. The moral logic of this
erroneous theological bilge is that only crazy people committing
suicide get to go to Heaven but sane people go to hell if they commit
suicide? Holy Toledo is that screwed up theology or what? God
deliver me from stupid preachers. Well, this old man knows the truth
about suicide now for sure because he is dead. I would bet my last
dollar that Jesus straightened him out, first thing, the second this
preacher crossed over into the Glory Land, too. If Jesus didn't, and
hasn't, I certainly will when I get there and without being suicidal,
which I'm not, I trust I'll be there sooner rather than later. Come
on Jesus! Let me out of this place and deliver me from compassionless
So, back to my question. How many times do you have to fail
before you are a failure? You have failed for the last freaking God
bless it time and Jesus ain't putting up with you any more? Yes, you
are correct. It is incredibly stupid. This ain't the Jesus we all
know and love so stop it right now and you have my permission to shout
down any dumb butt preacher who makes fun of hurting people regardless
of the pain they experience.
What does this have to do with me jumping off a wall, not
realizing I would drop 30 feet into a small creak, maybe killing
myself? Nothing. I just wanted to bring up what this preacher said
that was so stupid. I do have a point to make about my wall
experience which you will find interesting but you'll have to keep
reading to discover the truth.
May I tell you what is wrong about taking your own life, that is,
committing suicide? Ok, good. I'm glad you want to know. It is
wrong, perhaps we should say sin, because you aren't God. That's
right. You heard me. You aren't God and that's the simple answer.
Did you know that even Satan cannot take your life? Why is that, you
ask? He ain't got the power, or in other words, Satan doesn't have
the authority of life and death. Jesus is the only one who has that
power and authority. Look it up for yourself and read it in Matthew
10:28 if you doubt it. So what does this mean? It means, if you take
your own life, you have made yourself bigger than God. You've become
judge of the universe. Not wise, really. Totally unacceptable for a
Christian. By the way, I am only talking about Christians killing
themselves now. Lost people are on their own. "But hasn't a person
who has killed themselves, lost their salvation?" Chapter and verse,
please. There ain't nothing that says any such thing in the Bible
like that so throw that Bible away you are reading and buy a good one.
Before continuing, let me explain why my belief on suicide is
somewhat a problem. when people ask me, I have to carefully word it
in such a way that they don't say, "Hot dog. I knew it! I'm running
right out into traffic and getting run over. Thank you Jesus." Hold
up there, partner. That isn't the way it works. It puts me in mind
of a friend who tried killing himself once. He got his neighbor, when
he overdosed, to rush him to the Emergency Room. Later, when they
were sure he wasn't in any danger, he was taken to visit with a mental
health counselor of some kind. The counselor admitted he had tried
killing himself once after asking my friend if he had ever attempted
it before now. My friend said, yes, and in fact was going to use a 22
rifle. The mental health specialist said, "Don't bother with a 22
rifle. If you want to make it work, use a 45 instead. That will
work." That may be true, you see, but it also may not be good advice.
You get my meaning here? My point is, just because I believe a
Christian committing suicide doesn't go to hell, doesn't mean I am
right and it doesn't mean anybody should do it.
God has principles in His Word he requires His people to live by.
He has reasons for these principles, too. I was taught, growing up in
a Baptist church, that certain things were just the way they were and
you shouldn't question it. In fact, to question it demonstrated a
lack of faith, or something, and this made God mad, or it might. If
it did, you were in trouble. I know better now, of course, and have
learned that God isn't afraid of any question we may ask. Let me
sight an example.
Let's talk about sex for an example. How's that sound? Why is
sex outside of marriage sin? Wrong is the wrong word. It is sin,
plain and simple. Why is the real question. The real answer is that
it distorts and fractures the picture of holiness that Christ has with
His Bride; the Church. That's us, of course. So, premarital sex, sex
before marriage, or what the Bible normally calls fornication, and
extramarital sex, what the Bible calls adultery, is sin because of
what it does. This means, obviously, sexuality, and sexual
expressiveness, is spiritual by its very nature. It is, spiritually
wrong outside of marriage, and spiritual right and whole and complete
within the context of marriage. Jesus said, a married couple becomes
one flesh. This makes sex outside of marriage, or the act of one
flesh, literally impossible. Thus, it is called sin. Biologically
speaking, it is normal but only within the confines of marriage. If
what I said is true, then if a person sins in this manner, can they be
forgiven? I'm sure you know the answer.
Murder is a crime against society. It is the taking of a life
which goes against God's divine picture of relationship. Furthermore,
we do not have the right to judge another life as does the Lord. He,
and He alone, has the power of life and of death. To take a life is
sin and God alone set the rules for such a sin. Can the murderer be
forgiven? Yes, in the same way all sin is forgiven. Society has been
given license by God, on the other hand, to carry out His authority in
His name. Thus, as harsh as it is, capital punishment is still valid
in the New Testament age. I'm not suggesting for a moment that I
could be the doctor who administers the lethal injection, or than man
that flips the switch, pulls the trigger, trips the trap door when
hanging was still applied even to horse thieves, or participate in any
way enforcing death by the gas chamber. I also wouldn't like living
next door to an atomic power plant even though I believe in them. I
live nextdoor to a freaking gas station, for crying out loud, and I
don't like that either but I still believe we should have gas
stations. We all get one vote, in social matters, or we should
perhaps is a better way of saying it, so sometimes, society isn't
going to follows God's laws of life and death. Such is the cost of
living in a free society. Abortion is another such theological topic
upon which God clearly speaks but society has chosen otherwise. If
this bothers you even as a Christian, try moving to one of the Arab
countries and see how you like living under their laws.
Closely connected to this topic, in some twisted way of thinking,
which has generally always been my style, I was once again listening
to Christian radio. I'm beginning to think perhaps I should give up
listening to Christian broadcasting all together. Anyhow, my
favorite, I repeat, my favorite preacher, more of a Bible teacher he
is, said something else equally as stupid as the other well known
megachurch preacher I have already mentioned. He basically said the
following. Carnality, for the Christian, is sinful, or living in the
flesh. By the way, I'm talking now about the word "carnal" found in,
for example, Romans 8:7, "The carnal mind is enmity against God," is
the word for (flesh). Now, it is in no way referring to your physical
body but that is the word which is used. Maybe this is where the
nonbiblical axiom of "Cleanliness is next to Godliness" came from but
the Apostle Paul is not trying to tell born again Christians that God
has spiritual hostility against their physical bodies. By the way,
the word "enmity" which is used in the text, refers to hostility. So
what would you think it is talking about? That's right. It is
speaking of spiritual things. If our minds are filled with
unholiness, lying concepts, and fractured Scriptural precepts, since
this isn't the nature of God's mind, we are going to be in conflict,
that is, we will be unable to agree with God and His Word. This man
said, however, that if you are discouraged or depressed or unhappy,
you are a carnal Christian and living in carnality will not put you in
favor with God. I reached over and switched the radio off. Why?
Because what he had just taught was not only unbiblical but just plain
stupid. The Apostle Paul was not saying any such thing. This is
faith gone amuck or as the old country preacher used to say, "That
preaching has gone to seed." In short, this preacher was trying to
teach that if you become sad, broken hearted, upset, depressed,
discouraged, feel disappointed or frustrated as a Christian, you are
living carnally, that is, sinfully. You may not be in agreement with
God at the time but you are not carnal. That's me preaching now, not
this knucklehead to whom I just referred. Go back and read the Bible
and tell me how many great men of God, some even called the friend of
God, who didn't experience discouragement, depression, and all these
other things the radio preacher was trying to declare carnal in nature
and thus displeasing to God. If what he said is true, then how can
you explain the compassion God has? You can't nor can that preacher.
You see, the mistake these two preachers are making is simple. They
believe in a relationship with God is based upon you, not God, not the
Holy Spirit, not Jesus Christ, but that is based upon you and you are
capable of turning off and on. You are in control, they believe, so
whatever you think is what is true. Sorry, but that is dead wrong and
felonious theology. It's also stupid but then I've already said that
a few times. For example, if you try and carry this ambiguous
teaching to its logical carnal conclusion, you would have to say,
during times of sorrow or sadness, discouragement and depression,
Jesus isn't the Lord of your life. Thus, you aren't a happy
Christian. The name of this man's set of tapes, by the way, is "How
To Be A Happy Christian." He claims, I've heard him myself say it,
that he has never been sad or discouraged or depressed in the 30 years
plus he has been in the ministry. Actually, since I have heard him
describe a very specific period of time that he was super discouraged
and about ready to give up, I think what he meant was, he hasn't been
sad or discouraged or depressed since he learned how to perpetually
live by faith. If this is true, then God bless him but his experience
isn't mine, or King David's or Paul's or that of Moses, Elijah, Job,
Jonah, John the baptizer, Jeremiah, and a whole bunch more men of God
I could list. Even Jesus would fall into this list. Remember? Jesus
swept at the tomb of Lazarus.
"Oh, ho, that is where I've got you," they say. "Jesus was
crying about the unbelief of the people around Him and not about His
Let's say you are correct. I don't think you are but just for
argument's sake, let's say you are right. If Jesus was a Spirit
filled man, which He was, and a Prophet, which He was, and He was the
Son of God, which He was, and even God Himself, which He was, why
would He allow His emotions to get the better of Him and weep over
those who He knew would reject Him. See what happens when you come up
with your own theology? You see, your emotions are not born again.
They are still a part of the mind, which is still a part of the body,
and it is only your spirit that is born again. Yes, you can, and
should, discipline your mind and body, at least according to James
1:21, but Jesus is still Lord regardless of how you feel. You do not
have to feel happy to be a good Christian. You do not have to feel
good to know in your heart that Jesus is still Lord of your life and
you are on your way to Heaven.
What does my wall experience have to do with any of this? I
asked Jesus that question while writing this article and He said,
"Think about it."
I did but couldn't see it and said so.
"What happened?" He asked me.
I said, "Nothing."
"Right," I heard his voice say. "You didn't jump. You listened
to your inner voice, that is, your spirit."
What the Holy Spirit was trying to show me, at least one thing He
was trying to show me, was that just because the thought came to drop
down on to the other side of the wall, instead of going ahead and
listening to that suggestion, I heard my own spirit communicating with
myself. Of course, my born again spirit is where the Holy Spirit
lives and from where He speaks to my mind upon which my emotions react
regardless of the circumstances. Let me repeat what I just said so
you will stop and think about it. My born again spirit is where the
Holy Spirit lives and from where He speaks to my mind upon which my
emotions react regardless of the circumstances. bottom line? Don't
jump without listening and while you are at it, stop listening to
those dumb radio preachers who are more interested in your money than
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