Once again, the city of Cleveland is rising to a place among America’s most important cities. After falling from its pinnacle as a manufacturing hub during its industrialization period, Cleveland – like so many other of America’s cities – has had to reinvent itself.
While living in the Chicagoland area during the mid-to-late 80’s, we witnessed a vibrant city in constant transition ever expanding and evolving. During my eight years living outside of Pittsburgh in the late 90’s, we experienced a city emerging into a real gem at Three Rivers, the Strip District, and downtown. Always, the pulse of the city beat strongly.
Having just arrived in Cleveland, we are excited to see such a beautiful city growing in national significance. From my perspective, this transformation is primarily being accomplished through four pillars of renewal. First, the city is rebuilding its downtown. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Progressive Field, Brown’s Stadium, Playhouse Square and Flats have transformed downtown into a tourist destination.
Second, world – class cities have world-class hospitals, museum and centers for art. In this area, Cleveland is among the top tier, beyond regional and national importance to gaining international recognition. Third, great cities have great sports clubs. Cleveland has long held a reputation for having die-hard fans. But nothing elevates a strong sports city like a championship. (Thank you LeBron!) This come from behind, physical victory infuses Cleveland with a sense of character as a tough come-back city.
And fourth, great cities can host national and international events. This is why Cleveland is excited to host the Republican National Convention in July. After a tormented primary season, each party will declare its leaders and lay out its platform before the nation. By political expedience, the GOP decided to hold their convention in an important swing state – perhaps under the influence of former Speaker of the House, John Boehner. The attention is a feather in the city’s cap – but a pain in the you-know-where for residents concerned about traffic, protestors, and security.
Starting July 10, I will be preaching a four – part series on the G.O.P. in the CLE: God Over Politics in Cleveland. The series studies Christ’s teaching on the responsibilities of government.
Jesus avoided the entrapment of political alliances. Instead, he decried moral and spiritual evil from the perspective of the kingdom of God versus the kingdoms of this world. Nevertheless, the religious powers of his day viewed Jesus as such a dangerous threat, they masterminded his crucifixion.
One of the great mistakes by the church is to entrench itself within the machinery of party politics. In the early 1980’s I personally witnessed Rev. Jerry Falwell use the pulpit to endorse and campaign for candidates. His church became an arm of the Republican Party for the “Religious Right.” I felt that he crossed a line of objectivity. God is not the God of the Republicans, nor is He the God of the Democrats.
So what does God expect of those who rule and wield the power over people’s lives? Scripture teaches us the kingdom of men must account to God for its ability to governance (God OVER Politics). Yet, there are also four areas which those who govern must be held responsible both before God and to those whom they govern: they must protect and defend people from threats and dangers; they are to take responsibility for the young, elderly, weak, hurting and vulnerable; they are to uphold justice, and promote public good; and they must treat all with respect in honesty and hold integrity.
While other areas of responsibilities could be included, these four tend to define the nature of government and advancement of civilization. If these pillars are strong, then the wellbeing of the society is positive. Whenever these pillars become corrupt or misplaced, the society will weaken and or fall apart.
Good Christian people can disagree over the strategy used to address these tasks, yet there should be general agreement upon these objective. We are kingdom builders of the spiritual realm, but we have both the opportunity and responsibility to remind those who would govern of the sacred honor of their task. Instead of divisive and destructive political campaigns, we desperately need dialogue on the important issues which threaten these four societal pillars.
As the nation’s attention is being drawn to Cleveland, we face social concerns which are greater than any single man or woman. Our two – party system will spend millions of dollars attempting to tear down one or lift another up. How much better would society be if that money was spent on helping people or solving issues? Cleveland has risen to place of national prominence. Let’s use it to redirect the focus of those who desire to govern. “For the kingdom is the LORD’S And He rules over the nations.” Psalm 22:28.