This week I had the opportunity to spend a couple days in downtown San Francisco. It’s not that I’ve never been to that city before—I’ve just never had an interest in walking its streets. So, my visits have always been limited to quick stops at its airport or meeting with the San Francisco Giants (a long-term client of the company I used to work for).
Why didn’t I have any desire to experience what San Francisco had to offer? With it’s convenient BART train system I could have easily spent many nights in it while visiting Concord, California (where that same company used to have an office)…and I had an employee who would do just that. He felt the tug of the "city by the bay," whereas I always wanted to get in and out as quickly as possible.
The most likely reason is that the city itself always seemed at odds with my preferences and worldview. First, I am a country boy and have an aversion to all urban (and suburban) areas (although something about New York City and Seattle gets me past it…and Sydney wasn’t so bad either). But, more importantly, San Francisco seemed to embrace a lifestyle 180 degrees from what I feel is meaningful (or, for that matter, moral). For a Christian country-bumpkin it was almost like crossing over into enemy territory…or perhaps like a nerd, with pants pulled up high, being forced to walk into a room with a bunch of cocky jocks. Oil and water.
I am happy to report, however, that it was a great city to visit…and I’m not just saying that because there was a Del Taco only a half a mile away from my Courtyard Marriott. 🙂 One of the ways I judge a city is how enjoyable walking around in it is. Are there things to see? Is there a sense of energy without an atmosphere of "Get out of my way!"? Is what you need convenient? Is it safe (and does it feel safe)?
In all these categories San Fran did well, and ignoring the surprisingly cool weather and the propensity of the city to cause my nose to run (I know, TMI), I regret not having more time to explore. (Multiple trips to get burritos only cover so much ground.) Even with what little of its sidewalks I traversed, I couldn’t help but think about the people I passed…whether it be the yuppie-like software start-up workers looking hip on their way to work, the homeless people who seemed to be able to fit a whole warehouse into a shopping cart, or the mob of Giants fans I had to swim upstream against on 2nd Street (as I was returning from my last pilgrimage to Del Taco).
This is going to be a rough segue, but bear with me…
One of my favorite bands, Journey, sings a song about San Francisco called, "Lights." It’s their hometown, and they sing longingly…
When the lights go down on the city
And the sun shines on the bay
Ooh I want to be there in my city
Oh oo oh, oh oo oh, oh oo oh
When I think about the people I crossed paths with on San Francisco’s streets, I wonder if when the "lights go down on the city" I would want to be with them. I don’t mean at sundown…I mean in the end when our Lord returns and (metaphorically) the lights go down on every city. If there is any American metropolis that would seem most like Sodom and Gomorrah, San Francisco would appear to be it (although sometimes Las Vegas seems to be making a run for the money). How will locations that do everything they can to repudiate our God and embrace their sin fair at the Second Coming? Also, will Jesus send angels to escort modern-day Lots to the hills before sulfur and fire rain down? Or are the Timothy LaHayes of this world right and we’ll already be raptured so that everyone who suffers is getting what they deserve?
Will we spend our last moments before the hereafter loving, caring for, and pleading with San Francisco’s unrepentant citizens to turn to the God who takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked? (See Ezekiel 18:23 and 33:11.)
Will we die with (or for) them?
No, I can’t say I want to be in the city by the bay when the lights go down on it…but I also know that our Lord cares no less about its lowest vagrant (or vilest sinner) than He does for me. I pray that when I see any one of its inhabitants or visitors I have the same eyes for them as Jesus does.