Michelle Carter’s Crime
Michelle Carter is the newest buzzword after her recent sentencing. Through a series of text messages and phone calls, 17-year-old Michelle encouraged her 18-year-old boyfriend, Conrad Roy, to commit suicide in 2014 in Massachusetts. She was recently convicted of involuntary manslaughter and received a 2.5 year sentence.
The case, in its soul-disturbing details, proffers a type for understanding the culpability of the church in her treatment of sin and sinners.
But First, the Details
The Text Messages
Conrad and Michelle spent several years in a long-distance, mostly electronic relationship. Conrad was depressed during this time and often spoke of ending his life. Initially, Michelle discouraged him from committing suicide. Then, her tact changed.
After Conrad expressed concern about how his family would feel if he killed himself, Michelle wrote in a text message:
I think your parents know you’re in a really bad place. Im not saying they want you to do it, but I honestly feel like they can accept it. They know there’s nothing they can do, they’ve tried helping, everyone’s tried. But there’s a point that comes where there isn’t anything anyone can do to save you, not even yourself, and you’ve hit that point and I think your parents know you’ve hit that point. You said you’re mom saw a suicide thing on your computer and she didn’t say anything. I think she knows it’s on your mind and she’s prepared for it.
Everyone will be sad for a while, but they will get over it and move on. They won’t be in depression I won’t let that happen. They know how sad you are and they know that you’re doing this to be happy, and I think they will understand and accept it. They’ll always carry u in their hearts
Prosecutors summarized the crime as follows: “Unbeknownst to his mother or any of the other people he was close to, for at least the past six days Conrad had been making plans to kill himself with carbon monoxide. Carter played an instrumental role: she talked him out of his doubts point-by-point, assured him that his family would understand why he did it, researched logistics and reassured him that he was likely to succeed, and pushed him to stop procrastinating and get on with it, mocking his hesitation and threatening to get him help if he did not carry through with his plans.”
The Fateful Night
Eventually, Roy drove to a Kmart parking lot, intending to kill himself. He filled his truck with carbon monoxide. Once he started to feel the effects, he got out of the vehicle. He was on the phone with Michelle. Michelle told him to get back in the truck. He did, and died there. Michelle was on the phone with him and heard his last breaths. She did not call an ambulance, Roy’s family, or his friends. She encouraged him to die and then listened as it happened.
This court has found that Carter’s actions and failure to act where it was her self-created duty to Roy since she put him in that toxic environment constituted reckless conduct.
Michelle confessed, “”[Conrad’s] death was my fault. Like, honestly I could have stopped it. I was the one on the phone with him and he got out of the car because it was working and he got scared and I f—en told him to get back in,” Carter said, according to the filing.
“It’s all my fault because I could have stopped him but I f—en didn’t and all I had to say was I love you and don’t do this one more time and he’d still be here.”
Michelle received a 2.5 year sentence, including 15 months in prison, for involuntary manslaughter.
Michelle Carter’s Case Helps Us See the Guilt of the Church
So what does this have to do with the church? The Bible tells us in Ezekiel 3:18-21.
When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.
God has said that the wicked will die. If Christians give no warning, this wicked person will die in his sin. From this Scripture, we see that we cannot expect people to repent if we don’t warn them. God has placed this burden on Christians. God has made it a Christian duty for Christians to warn sinners that they will go to hell if they do not stop sinning. If we do not warn them, they will die in their sins, and God will hold us responsible.
This is because we will be judged and sent to heaven or hell based on our works—what we have done. Only those who, by faith in Jesus Christ, stop sinning and live a holy life will be saved from hell.
“Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” (John 5:28-29)
But, as in the Michelle Carter case, Christians have taken this warning from Ezekiel one step further. It would be bad enough if Michelle hadn’t warned Conrad to stop. But, even worse, she encouraged him to take his own life.
The guilt of Christians encompasses both how we have acted, and how we have failed to act. In the Michelle Carter case, prosecutors said, “she talked him out of his doubts point-by-point.”
Have you talked sinners out of their convictions, point-by-point? Have you systematically reasoned with them that they can be saved without a changed life?
Prosecutors said, she “assured him that his family would understand why he did it.”
Have you assured sinners that “God understands” why they continue in sin? That he knows they can’t help themselves?
Prosecutors said, she “researched logistics and reassured him that he was likely to succeed, and pushed him to stop procrastinating and get on with it, mocking his hesitation and threatening to get him help if he did not carry through with his plans.”
Have you given sinners a logistical plan that avoids real, Biblical conversion—a cessation of sin and a changed life? Or, perhaps you have discouraged Christians from holiness. Have you discouraged anyone from aiming at living a sinless life? Have you mocked those who hesitate—have you mocked those who think there is a way to live without sin?
Michelle’s text messages imply that she thought Conrad would be better off if he committed suicide. She said, “you’re doing this to be happy.”
Likewise, Christians in America have not only ceased to warn the wicked; but we have said that the wicked can continue in their wickedness and, when they die, they’ll go to heaven. Just as Michelle Carter said that Conrad would be happy if he committed suicide, Christians have said to sinners, “You can’t be free from the misery of sin, but it will be better when you’re dead. You’ll be free when you’re dead.”
For example, John MacArthur’s website, “Grace to You,” asks the question, “What if I stopped sinning now and never sinned again?” The ministry answers, “We are hopelessly in bondage to sin and could not cease sinning no matter how hard we tried.”
This echoes Michelle’s text message to Conrad, “There isn’t anything anyone can do to save you, not even yourself.”
The ministry Abide in Christ sums up this deathly teaching: “God imputes or accredits the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ to the believing sinner while he is still in his sinning state….The foundation upon which God can justify the believing sinner who is still in his sinning state is because this justification is “a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith” (vv. 24-25).
In other words, the lie goes, “Nobody can stop sinning in this life. When you die, you’ll be changed. When Jesus sees you he doesn’t see you, he sees himself. You’re saved. You won’t go to hell.”
Guilty of Murder
This teaching is flat-out refuted by the Bible: “the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20). To tell a sinner that he is saved while he still sins, is to encourage him to sin. And to encourage someone to sin, is to encourage them to use the means that will contribute to their own death. It’s just like how Michelle Carter encouraged Conrad Roy to use carbon monoxide to kill himself–and helped him research it.
As a whole, the American church has bought into the lie of Satan, who said of sinners, “Ye shall not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). Just as Michelle is guilty of manslaughter, Christians who encourage sinners to continue in sin are guilty of murder.
So, have you failed to talk to your friends, family members, or neighbors about the wrath of God against them? Have you failed to pray for them? Do you believe that, if they’re elect, God will save them whether or not you do anything about it? And, that if they’re not, there’s nothing you can do anyway–they’re unsaveable and hell-bound. This is not the heart of Jesus!
If you have talked to them, did you present a sentimental, cotton-candy Jesus who loves everyone unconditionally? Or have you not talked to them at all, because, “They’re not ready to hear”? The fact is, they are guilty and condemned and presently under the wrath of God.
Perhaps you have given wrong instruction to those you have spoken to. You may have said, “Well, you can think about it,” or, “Let me know when you’re ready.” Other possibilities include, “This is just what I believe. You’re free to believe whatever you want.” Or maybe, “Nobody’s perfect. If you believe in Jesus, you’re saved. Don’t worry about (fill in the blank: cheating on your wife, or smoking, or drinking, or watching porn.)” If so, you are telling them to continue in sin while they would go to hell if they died today.
Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.
Here we see that our salvation as Christians depends on whether we do our duty to warn the wicked. Even if they don’t repent, we, at least, won’t lose our salvation.
What About Sin in the Church?
Ezekiel 3 continues,
Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand.
God doesn’t require us to confront sin only with the lost. He requires us to deal with it in the church. If we see a brother or sister backsliding or sinning, we have a duty to lovingly warn them that their salvation is in jeopardy. And again, your soul is in danger if you don’t warn your backsliding or unconverted brothers and sisters.
For example, do you believe in “Once saved, always saved?” Does this lead you to see your brothers and sisters sinning, and not say anything to them about it? Or, even worse, are you like Michelle Carter—do you encourage them to die? To keep sinning? You may comfort them by saying, “It’s okay, God loves you. You can’t lose your salvation.”
Michelle Carter said, “They know how sad you are and that you’re doing this [killing yourself] to be happy.” Is this your attitude towards those who sin?
There Is Hope
Finally, we see the ideal situation:
Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul.
In this case, both people continue in righteousness and are saved.
So, are you angry at Michelle Carter for encouraging her boyfriend to die? Rightly so. But how do your own actions measure up? You can’t be angry at Michelle Carter for promoting suicide and not be angry at yourself for failing to warn the wicked–whether in the church or out of the church–to repent and get right with Jesus.
But first, of course, is the question–are you in sin? How can you warn others, if you aren’t saved yourself? If you’re a sinner, won’t you repent–today?