Thursday, July 26, 2012

666: The Chick-Fil-A Controversy and the Mark of the Beast

He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666. (Revelations 13:16-18, NIV)

Recently, Dan Cathy, President of Chick-Fil-A, ignited a firestorm by “admitting” that the owners of Chick-Fil-A support the traditional, biblical definition of marriage. As a result of his comments, Chick-Fil-A has been vilified in the press and political leaders in both Boston and Chicago are seeking to ban Chick-Fil-A from doing business. The controversy has raised serious questions for Christians in business. One of the questions is, “Can one hold Christian convictions and do business in the marketplace?”

This is not a new problem. Christians all over the world have faced this throughout history and even today. Furthermore, Revelation 13 addresses this very issue. I don’t have time to go into a full explanation of Revelation 13, but I do want to make a few observations. First, when the original readers first read this, the image of the Beast most likely caused them to think of the Roman Empire. While the beast was indeed the Roman Empire, he did not pass away with the fall of Rome.  The beast and his ten horns represent all the worldly rulers who persecute the Church.  They are the worldly governments throughout history who have blasphemed God and sought to destroy his people.

The mark of the beast has been grist for the rumor mill throughout the ages. In recent years, people have speculated that the mark would be a bar code imprinted on our hands, or a computer chip implanted under our skin that would be used to replace currency. Some groups are suspicious of Social Security numbers and cards, suspecting that they may be the mark of the beast.

People enjoy talking about the mark of the beast and offering up conspiracy theories in the same way that they enjoy a good ghost story. It is sort of fun to be spooked a little. However, if we focus on some sort of physical fulfillment of this prophecy instead of interpreting it in light of Scripture, we will miss the point. The result will be that we fear a false danger while the real danger goes undetected.

The idea of having a mark on one’s hand and head is not novel to the book of Revelation. In Bible days, slaves often bore the mark of their masters. We also find a similar symbol in the Old Testament in the book of Deuteronomy. The first person to command us to have a mark on our hands and our head was not the beast, but God through the prophet Moses.

In Deuteronomy 6:6-9, we read,
These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (NIV)

When the Pharisees of Jesus day read this, they took it literally. So, they wrote the law of God on little scrolls and put them in boxes on their hands and heads called phylacteries. However, that was not God’s point at all. When God instructed his people to bind the law of God to their hands and foreheads, he was commanding them to have the law in all that the do (hands) and all that they think (heads).

If we interpret Scripture in light of Scripture, we see that the image in Revelation about the mark of the beast corresponds to the image in Deuteronomy about the law. So, when Revelation tells us that the beast will require us to have his mark on our hands and foreheads, it is not warning us against computer chips or barcodes. Rather, God is telling us that the beast will not allow us to buy or sell (do business) unless we act like the world and think like the world. This is precisely what we are seeing today.

Our culture will tolerate our Christianity as long as we keep it away from how we live and how we think. However, if you want to get ahead in the world, then the beast will do all that it can to force you to think the way he does and act the way he does. Thinking and acting Christianly is totally unacceptable.

So, how do we respond?

1)      With courage. In John 16:33, Jesus said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Our battle against the beast is temporary. Jesus has already won the war. So, do not give into fear.

2)      With prayer. Paul reminds us that the battle we are in is not against flesh and blood, “but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Therefore, we do not use the weapons of this world. There is a huge temptation for many in the Christian community to fight against the beast with the weapons of the beast. If you do that, you have already lost. You have taken his mark upon you. Think and act Christianly. Use the spiritual weapons of prayer and faith.

3)      With love. Remember, our fight is not against flesh and blood. So, do not demonize flesh and blood. The Beast is our enemy, not those who are his captives. Those who hold to biblical values must not think of themselves as superior to those who do not. Remember, the only reason anyone is a Christian is because of God’s grace. If that is true, then arrogance is impossible. That does not mean we are to be wishy-washy. It does mean we must be both humble and loving. We must love, truly love, those who oppose us. We must love those who engage in practices that the Bible says are morally wrong. After all, while we were still rebels without a clue, Christ died for us.

4)      With action. Responding in faith and love does not mean we are to be passive. In our country, we have been given power as citizens to affect those who rule. So, we must engage in the political process and elect those who will defend the rights of all people. We must fight for justice. Just as we do not want government to oppress us for our views, we must not use the same fascist techniques to oppress those who differ with us. Yet, if we do not engage in the political process, we have no one to blame when our rights are taken away. There is an election coming up and elections have consequences.

By the way, this does not mean that the church should engage in politics. The church as an entity has a different mission—to make disciples. However, those disciples do have a responsibility to engage in the world from a biblical worldview. This biblical worldview not only affects one’s religious convictions, but social, moral, political, and economic convictions as well.


Jonathan said...

Hi Pastor Mark, I enjoyed this post. Thanks for speaking out with a voice of peace and courage.

Just an FYI, I wasn't able to find any of your audio sermons by following the link under My Sermons.

Jonathan Fashbaugh
Given Life Ministries

Leslie Taylor said...

Thanks for this, Mark, very insightful. I appreciate your perception into the seriousness of what is happening in our culture! I love the insight about the mark of the beast--makes perfect sense. There are scary times, but thank you for the reminder that He has overcome.
P.S. On a recent car trip, I had my kids relisten to your sermon "Who Killed Jesus and Why" from Palm Sunday a few years back. Great overview!