And to it (the beast) the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority…. They worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, ‘who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?’ (Revelation 13:2b & 4)

Many think of friendship as a virtue or a purpose. Few think of it as anything but necessary and good. True friendship can be many things: it can be gold; it can be sack cloth; it can be tar.

The following parable was written by Joshua Noel as part two of five in a parable series, called "The Mark".

In the town like any other, after the mark had been revealed, the people began to ponder the seriousness of this strange coincidence. They wondered if it were a coincidence at all – their pastor oft taught that God does everything for a purpose, so what else could be the purpose of the mark other than a warning to them all?

In such a time as this, the town all knew how to rely on each other. You see, this was a small, quaint town where everyone knew everyone, a close-knit community. Not all of them had internet or televisions or the like, but they all had one another.

The local town news had issued a paper questioning the mark upon David’s head, concentric spirals upon one’s head is strange indeed. The mayor felt much dismay over this. He thusly would go to his friend, the Pastor, to rely on him for help.

Inside the church on the hill, shortly before the Sunday sermon, the Mayor spoke to his friend behind the pulpit.  He implored the Pastor to help him draw attention away from his son, David, who’s recent blemish had begun inciting the townspeople to start to create and connect the dots. In his plea, he begged the Pastor to do what he could to provide other explanations.

The Pastor refused at first, for God had impressed on him a different message; but, seeing the distress his friend was in, the Pastor would soon fold and prepare his message on the book of Revelation.

With this purpose in mind, he greeted his flock a short time later, standing at the podium dressed in the finest linens a person could buy. He looked out at those in the pews and what he saw reflected was much like the church that they stood in, gorgeous and with little spared to make it so.

The Pastor spoke to the crowd, describing the change of topic for the day. He spoke of the signs and symbols and what will be present in the final days; feeding his flock from a different field than he originally intended that Sunday, the sheeple would soon stray.

Midway through his sermon, the pastor was interrupted by one of the town’s farmers. The man, while not as embellished as the rest, was well respected by all. He stood up and asked a simple, innocent question of whether the dragon and the beast were literal creatures coming or not. The pastor replied by spouting a list of things that would be present in the end of days, and who they would be with. As his audience heard the list of the whore and the beast, they began to buzz.

Another asked about the antichrist, which caught the Pastor off guard. He was not used to anyone speaking in service and thus he replied quickly and without much thought, explaining that of course these were symbolic creatures and they could be any person. The Bible says the end will come like a thief in the night, the pastor went on to explain. The beast, the dragon, the whore – they could be anyone, but certainly not David….

He said David’s name accidently, the moment of reaction without directed thought cost him. The buzzing continued as person after person shouted questions.

As the buzzing grew, David was filled with disappointment and pity for the townspeople. He stood up, every eye on him, he took the Refugee by his hand, and they left the church together. The Foster Child began to stand with them, but upon one glare from the Pastor she would sit back down, losing the original boldness that she mustered to stand with David.

David led the Refugee back to the foster home, where he began to complain about the shameful display at the church on the hill. David did not want the Refugee to see his God represented by such discord. David began to rant in righteous anger, when the Refugee would then suggest they had their own time of study.

And so, together, David and the Refugee would study the ways of God, whilst the town murmured to God in dismay; David and the Refugee stayed in the presence of God, whilst the townspeople stayed in the spirit of anarchy.

The buzzing of the townspeople continued into the school on the following day. The Pastor’s Son was learning exactly who he could lean on at this time. For, you see, he had begun to question the action that he and the Beast partook in. He knew David never merited such spite. He questioned himself and begun to beat himself up over it. He even came close to apologizing to David once; however, he instead went to his good friend, the Beast, with his moral quandaries. The Beast, sensing the weakness, coached him up.

The Beast comforted him and then reminded him of the enjoyment in that moment of the action. The Beast claimed that all such pranks were jovial and everyone knew they meant nothing. In demonstration, the Beast would tease David about the event and David would simply smile. The Beast had proven that there was indeed no need for guilt. The two friends thus uplifted one another and continued in their fun by teasing David all the more and having others join in. Everyone who joined them would serve as a reminder to the Pastor’s Son that this was all simply done in fun.

Of course this all did indeed hurt David, but he knew better than to let them see it at school. He was a righteous man who was above such pity or retaliation.

Then it began to occur to the Pastor’s Son that David befriended one whom came from across the seas – like the beast of Revelation. The Beast also would begin to question about who the whore of Babylon could possibly be, other than the weird Foster Child that David was dating. The Foster Child was the adopted daughter of the town minister, and the sister to the Beast’s friend. With all of these new questions, the Beast and the Pastor’s Son began teasing the Refugee and the Foster Child along with David at the town’s high-school.

The Beast even started a rumour about the Foster Child truly being a whore, based on nothing but maybe a grain of truth. And the Pastor’s Son would give the Beast all he need to accuse the Refugee of being the beast of Revelation. Of course the Beast did this simply because he knew of the hatred that the Pastor’s Son had for David. To the Beast, this is what it meant to be a true friend.

David found the teasing of his friends unbearable; he decided to leave town in order to spare his friends from the harsh proclamations being made. He could not bear the Refugee, with no family or other friends, being persecuted on his behalf or the shy but beautiful Foster Child being called “the whore”, simply because she was dating him.

The tumultuous onslaught of fear and hatred that had slowly grown to grip the school made David start to fear.  So unused to the feelings, he contemplated leaving the town. The venom of fear and distrust had begun to seep into the usually clean cracks of the town’s morality.

The Refugee, however, was not unaccustomed to the hidden vitriol of the people in the town like any other. Seeing his friend in distress, he counselled him. The Refugee opened David’s eyes to the truth of the situation. He made his friend understand how the favour of the town’s people was merely the tide going out.  The Refugee even recalled the study he and David had earlier, where they read the words of Christ: “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” The Refugee assured David that he and the Foster Child would both consider it an honour to be persecuted alongside the man of God.

And so, through the coming persecutions, the friendships of the Pastor and the Mayor, the Beast and the Pastor’s Son, and the friendship of David and the Refugee will never falter.

So we ask you, readers: is friendship a vice or a virtue?

Part 3 of the parable series, "The Mark", will be released on May 5th 2016.

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