Recently my wife, Jana, and I attended the end-of-the-summer party of a friend who is the Midwest bureau chief for PEOPLE magazine. She and her husband live about 40 minutes from us. That evening Jana and I met several interesting people, including writers for PEOPLE magazine and a young lawyer who works for one of the most prestigious law firms in Chicago. A Northwestern University Law School grad, she defends large companies that are being sued by former employees.

"What's the most interesting thing you're working on?" I asked.

"A sexual harassment suit," Julie replied. "But it's not your typical lawsuit. The plaintiff is a man who alleges a woman coworker sexually harassed him."

"What do like most about your work?" I asked, thinking she would mention something about the thrill of courtroom drama. (I may be watching too much TV these days.)

"I enjoy the counseling I do the most," she said. "I like going into companies and teaching employees about the law."

She continued: "When it comes to law about sexual harassment, though, I find people very resistant to the guidelines I recommend — such as not telling dirty jokes or being careful about how one touches a coworker."

"Why's that?"

"People simply think the rules are crazy," she said. "In recent years, society has become much more conservative in that area. The pendulum will probably swing back, but for now, the work environment is very strict, and people resent it."

Isn't that just the way the law works? It can force you to obey, but it cannot make you want to obey. The same is true of God's law. Romans 4:20 reads, "Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin." That's why humankind needs the gospel, for only the gospel — and the righteousness it brings — can make us good, and thus make us want to do good. I can identify at least two implications of this truth for leaders:

1) Christian communicators speaking to believers should assume that people want to do the right thing. That notion alone can revolutionize your preaching and teaching: It moves you from assuming people don't want to change to assuming that, because of the work of the Holy Spirit, they do.

2) Christian communicators, when addressing nonbelievers, should focus not on persuading them to do good but on the gospel, which makes them good.

Dave Goetz is editor of ChurchLeadership.Net. To comment on this devotional, e-mail

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