In his book Human Universals, anthropologist Donald Brown lists over 400 human behaviors common across all cultures. Some of his findings are touching: All cultures have toys, jokes, dances, and proverbs; they have music, poetry, tickling, and thumb-sucking; the people of each culture develop languages, take names, are wary of snakes, and tie things with string! Likewise, Brown discovered a number of moral universals across humanity. All ethnic groups have concepts of true and false, good and bad, fairness and equity, and right and wrong. And while vices like gossip, manipulation, and feelings of ethnic superiority are also universal, many are acknowledged to be wrong. All people everywhere, it seems, have some sense of conscience.
The apostle Paul made the same point centuries before Brown. He noted that though God gave the Jews the Ten Commandments to clarify right and wrong, the fact that Gentiles can do the right thing by obeying their conscience shows that God has woven His laws into every human heart (Romans 2:14-15). Ever wonder why atheists can be kind or why cultures without biblical exposure have ethical codes? That's why. Of course, knowing what is right, either through Jewish Law or conscience, doesn't mean that we always do what is right. The Gentile senses what is right but still rebels (1:32); the Jew knows the Law but still breaks it (2:17-24). Break those mysterious universal rules and both Law and conscience condemn us, and this is Paul's point.
Through the sacrificial death of Jesus, God frees us from the penalty of our rebellion and forgives us for breaking His rules! (3:23-26; 6:23). Everyone has a conscience, and no one obeys it fully. So everyone has a problem, which only Jesus can solve. , Sheridan Voysey
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