When he saw him he had compassion and... Jesus used the parable of the Good Samaritan to teach about how His followers should love others. The parable also provides a model for crisis intervention.

The Good Samaritan and Crisis Intervention

Many people turn to and rely on the Bible as a source of wisdom and comfort, but for a crisis intervention model?

Who is My Neighbor?

A young man, who knew Jewish Law, asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life. In response, Jesus asked him what the Law said. The young man answered correctly: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”

The young man then asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus answered with a parable, a story that represents a deeper truth.

We call it the of The Parable of the Good Samaritan… like we’re perpetuating the Jewish prejudice of the time. To Jesus’ Jewish listeners, it would be an oxymoron. Good” and “Samaritan” just didn’t belong together.

This particular Samaritan stepped in where a priest and a Levite, men who claimed to be set apart to serve God, and to serve the people on His behalf, were too proud; they would not sully their ritualistic purity to help a man in dire need.

A Model for Biblical Crisis Intervention

A few years ago, my husband and I attended a seminar titled Equipping the Christian Community to Address Suicide: An Integrative Approach. It was presented by Scott Forbes LMSW, a Christian who directs, and at that time had 22-years experience with, a county-wide crisis intervention program. Unlike a suicide hotline with trained individuals talking to people in crisis by phone or online, they have a crisis team that goes out to people in crisis in their county

He sees… a lot. And he looks at it through the lens of a Biblical worldview.

When he saw him he had compassion and... Jesus used the parable of the Good Samaritan to teach about how His followers should love others. The parable also provides a model for Biblical crisis intervention.

The Parable

In the story of the good Samaritan, Scott sees a wonderful model for intervention, for how we should care for the suffering:

Jesus replied and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him…

The Samaritan RECOGNIZED.

…he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him…


On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him…


and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’

He RETURNED, and, if necessary, he would have REPEATED

Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.”

Luke 10:30-37, NASB


You could call it the introduction to Jesus’ first sermon:

And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written,

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed,
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”

And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Luke 4:16-21, NASB

Our Response

People suffering in depression have lost their emotional resources. They are captive, blind, oppressed. They need help. They need the “good news.” They need the hope of Christ, the Way, the Truth, the Life.

We are His hands and feet.

But the church doesn’t quite know what to do with people in crisis, and we tend to ignore what we feel ill-equipped to deal with. In the face of full-blown crisis, we panic and/or freeze.

The church doesn’t quite know what to do with people in crisis. Click To Tweet

So, let’s start with the crisis intervention model of the Samaritan.

  • Recognize. Pay attention when people withdraw from usual activities and loved ones, or their behavior changes in other ways. Listen when people express feelings of helplessness or hopelessness.
  • Respond. If you suspect someone is in danger of attempting suicide, ask the question. Let them tell their story.
  • Refer. People suffering in depression, especially if they express suicidal ideation, can need help beyond what you are capable to give. Accept your limitations and get the person help, regardless of how they feel about it at the time. If someone is in danger of self-harm, they need to go to the hospital.
  • Return. Ask if you can check up on the person after they have received the next level of care. And follow through on followup.
  • Repeat. Remember the person may still be in crisis. Question and respond accordingly.

The Good Samaritan model of crisis intervention: Recognize. Respond. Refer. Return. Repeat. Click To Tweet

How can we respond to mental health crises in the church? Follow the example of the Good Samaritan: Recognize. Respond. Refer. Return. Repeat. Read the post to learn more about this Biblical crisis intervention model.

A version of this post also appeared on Defying Shadows.

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