The human impulse to believe in a greater but unseen power began to emerge in ways that don’t always make sense to us now. And some of the primitive rites of worship that resulted were at times misdirected and far from benevolent. But we also felt inspired to live in ways that pleased this unseen reality.
At its earliest, this understanding of what was to be human probably emerged as little more than a sense of fairness—you don’t eat more than your share. You don’t demand more from others than you give. Such internally motivated guidelines for behavior weren’t always practical or even logical. Sharing too little with too many could starve everyone. That’s probably why CS Lewis called such morality “the Law of Human Nature.” It was the one “law” that humans do not “share with animals or vegetables or inorganic things” (Mere Christianity 4).
And, though they may explain and apply this moral “law” differently, all the world’s religions respond in some way to it. As Lewis wrote, human beings have always found “themselves under a moral law, which they did not make, and cannot quite forget even when they try, and which they know they ought to obey” (Mere Christianity 19).
Sometimes we obey without understanding. Sometimes obedience leads to understanding. Whichever it is, this unseen and intangible compass for human behavior feels right to us. Perhaps that is because faith in the goodness of an unseen God begins with faith in human goodness. As the New Testament writer tells us, “those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen” (NRSV 1 John 4:20). (Living Large, chapter 3)