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Doing Good For The Sake Of Love

The familiar Gospel story of the Good Samaritan can stimulate us to question why we do or do not do certain things. In the eyes of God, our motivations, which reveal what is in our hearts, are as equally important as our actions. In this regard, Lawrence Kohlberg was a psychologist and professor at Harvard University who studied human behavior and motivation and developed a theory of moral behavior that involved six stages. According to his theory, at stage one we respond to the threat of punishment. We perform good acts because if we do not, we will suffer the consequences. This is why we slow down when we see the police car. At stage two, we are motivated by a reward—like a raise in salary or a nicer home. State three suggests that we are motivated by public opinion and what other people think of us. Kohlberg referred to it as the good boy/girl stage. Stage four, the motivating influence is law, our duty to society and good order. Kohlberg believed that most people do not move beyond level three or four. At stage five, a person is motivated by a sense of social responsibility to others. The world needs to be a better place, and we need to contribute to it. At stage six a person’s motivation is totally and fully internalized. Now a person acts not because of law or public opinion but simply for the sake of doing good for others, for the sake of true and legitimate love. For these people, doing good for others alone matters and may even end in martyrdom. Kohlberg said that we call these people saints, and that few ever attain this level of motivation. Obviously, the Good Samaritan was acting at a stage six level. But more importantly, when Christ says to us, “Go and do likewise”, He is calling us to the same sort of level. We must become people whose motivations are first and foremost doing good for others just as He has done good for us. Perhaps this week we need to realize that most of us often act out of mixed motives. But we pray that our motives may become more and more those of Christ Himself, motives which truly seek the good of others even when we must sacrifice for that good.


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