Symbiosis serves spirituality

Leonard Lauriault

There’re several types of interspecific relationships. In beneficial relationships, one species provides a benefit to another species with no apparent positive or negative return. Symbiosis is when two species benefit each other. Parasitic relationships occur when one species benefits at the expense of another without directly causing death. A predatory relationship leads to an individual’s death and a fifth relationship is benign because species coexist with no interaction.

Alfalfa, a legume grown for hay, provides an example of the first three relationships. Legumes live symbiotically with bacteria that can extract nitrogen from the air and shed it into the soil where the alfalfa can absorb it for growth. The bacteria receive nearly all of their nutrition from the alfalfa.

A beneficial relationship exists when a grass is grown with the alfalfa. The grass also needs nitrogen, but it cannot live symbiotically with the bacteria. However, the bacteria living with the alfalfa can usually fix enough nitrogen to meet the needs of both the alfalfa and the grass. Although the grass contributes nothing measurable to the relationship, it benefits without detriment to the alfalfa or bacteria.

Parasitic dodder is the yellow spaghetti looking stuff that will soon show up on lots of plants, including alfalfa. It attaches itself to the alfalfa and begins sucking out its life, giving nothing in return and actually causing a reduction in growth that seldom leads to death.

OK, now that we’ve had our science lesson (and you thought school was out), what’s this all about?

Humans live in similar relationships. Our relationship with God is strictly beneficial. He provides all we need for life and godliness without needing anything from us (2 Peter 1: 5-11; Acts 17: 24-28). Our relationship to each other is to be symbiotic – we work to meet our own needs and to have something to share with others (Ephesians 4: 28; Acts 4: 32-35; 2 Corinthians 8: 13-15). Sometimes we share things, like food, not because someone needs the food, but because everyone needs fellowship. And it’s often through fellowship (whether a food function or a softball game) that others can realize the nature of a beneficial relationship with God.

There will be parasites, but that shouldn’t impact our relationships to one another and God because those who start out as parasites might eventually become symbiotic. On the other hand, if anyone just continues to take without giving anything in return, as in helping others, they are parasites, using up resources God has provided for the benefit of all people. We’re not to just sit by and let that happen because there’s a predator out there with lots of helpers and we need to be wary of their agenda (1 Peter 5: 8, 9; Job 1: 6, 7; Matthew 7: 15-20; 2 Corinthians 11: 13-15; 2 Thessalonians 3: 6-14). One purpose of Christian symbiosis is to flock together to protect each individual for parasitism or predation (Hebrews 10: 25; 3: 12-14).

Are you in the beneficial relationship with God that causes Christian symbiosis?

Leonard Lauriault is a member of the Church of Christ in Logan. Contact him at: