SYMBIOSIS AND COVID

Symbiosis involves interaction between two different organisms living in close physical association. It denotes a mutually beneficial relationship between different people or groups or species.

Symbiotic relationships are essential to many organisms and ecosystems, and they provide a balance that can only be achieved by working together. There are three basic types of symbiosis: mutualism, commensalism, and parasitism.

Mutualism is a symbiotic relationship in which both species benefit. Bees and flowers have a mutualistic relationship as well. Bees get the nectar they need to make honey by traveling between flowers. The bee brings pollen from one plant to another, resulting in pollination.

Commensalism is a symbiotic relationship in which one species benefits while the other species is not affected. One species typically uses the other for a purpose other than food. Tree frogs using plants for protection, golden jackals, once they have been expelled from a pack, trailing a tiger to feed on the remains of its kills, goby fish living on other sea animals, changing color to blend in with the host, thus gaining protection from predators, are all examples of commensalism

Parasitism is a symbiotic relationship in which one species (the parasite) benefits while the other species (the host) is harmed. There are many types of parasitic fungi that will attack various plants, fruits, vegetables, and even animals.

In the Bible, we see precedents for all these three types of symbiotic relationships existing, especially in the church.

In Acts 4:32 we witness mutualism when we read that All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.

Israel was instructed by the laws of God to care for the widow and the orphan, the poor and the needy as well as for the foreigner and alien who.lived among them. The Church also lived by this principle, a clear demonstration of commensalism.

Apostles Paul, Peter and Jude warn of parasitical people in the church who are blots and blemishes in their feasts, people who use and misuse the goodness of others in the Body of Christ for their own needs. In the Old Testament too, God warns the shepherds through the prophet Ezekiel for not searching for His flock but caring for themselves rather than for His flock and living off the flock (Eze 34).

I believe the best illustration of symbiosis occurs in II Cor 8 & 9 when the Apostle Paul commends the Macedonian churches for their generosity towards other churches in need and recommends that the Corinthian/Achaian churches follow suit. He points out the cycle of mutual benefit that results from such caring and sharing when he writes This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
(II Cor 9:12‭-‬15).

In these days of Covid, churches can follow this principle and demonstrate community concern and consciousness to a watching world through the acts of positive symbiosis. Not just commensalism symbolized in caring for those adversely affected, but also in partnerships of beneficial mutualism.

An example of such a relationship would be for larger churches with extensive technological resources to help the smaller ones, who lack such amenities, use their facilities to record and propagate their online services. The prayers of the latter will surely bless the efforts of the former and God’s love will be exhibited in a very practical way in a greedy and selfish society, making hearts sensitive to receive the gospel!

Churches do reach out to those in the community being hurt by the pandemic, such as migrant workers or those who have lost their income. However, church communities haven’t yet begun helping one another enough to warrant a community impact that will open doors and hearts for the gospel. Unless a community cooperation and coexistence is perceived, people around will never understand Christ’s love for the lost.

A city church adopting a struggling village church, serving it in times of need will go a long way in showing solidarity between members of the same family of God to those around. Just as the conduct of individuals and families is to adorn the gospel, the attitude and deportment of churches towards their needy brother/sister churches would provide context for the content of the gospel.

Not just churches, but Christian businesses and businessmen/women can also adopt and emulate the Biblical model of mutuality or commensality. This is not the time to behave like vultures to swallow up others because of the opportunity for acquisition, but rather exhibit charity in every way.

God’s way is for the mountain to be used to fill the valley so that a highway be made for all. He had this in mind when He told His people to care for the poor: Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land. Deut 15:10‭-‬11

Symbiotic relationships are showcased in nature to clue in us to God’s plan for mankind, as individuals and communities.

Let’s not be cunning as jackals or ravenous as wolves, but pure as doves and innocent as lambs, especially in this pandemic crisis!

*Pics courtesy unsplash.com and google images

THE PARENT LEADERSHIP PARADIGM

https://youtu.be/n59ljFfdSQc

The often rehearsed concept and statement that we hear today, not just in Christian circles, but also in corporate sectors, is the term servant leadership. This has gained acceptance in contrast to and as opposed to professional leadership. I term all other previous leadership styles, viz. traditional, charismatic and bureaucratic, as professional leadership.

Traditional leadership is where power is given to the leader based on traditions of the past and their power was tied to their past leaders. The traditional leadership style is based on the belief that power is bestowed on the leader, in keeping with the traditions of the past. 

Charismatic leadership is basically the method of encouraging particular behaviours in others by way of eloquent communication, persuasion and force of personality. Charismatic leaders motivate followers to get things done or improve the way certain things are done. 

Bureaucratic leadership is one whereby employees are made to follow specific rules and lines of authority created by the superiors. These leaders function based on official regulations fixed by higher authorities within the organization. The bureaucratic leadership pattern focuses on the administrative needs an organization has and is used mostly in the public sector, which relies heavily on consistency and adherence to rules and regulations to get whatever results they seek.

In contrast, the servant leader’s goal is to serve rather than just focusing on the thriving of their company or organizations. Servant leaders have turned the traditional power leadership model upside down, putting the people, or employees in a business context, at the very top and the leader at the bottom. Armed with the attitude to serve the employees above them, servant leaders focus on ‘empowering and uplifting those who work for them rather than  commanding, showing humility instead of brandishing authority, and always looking to enhance the development of their staff members in ways that unlock potential, creativity and sense of purpose.’  

Even though the Servant Leadership concept and practice are much superior to professional leadership motifs, I believe that there is yet another leadership way which is higher and nobler. This leadership type, modelled, championed and showcased in the Bible, can be named or termed as parent leadership. 

The main focus of parent leadership is nurture rather than just achieving outcomes, attaining goals or reaching targets. It is about shaping and moulding the individual, considering them as inheritors of the leader’s character, culture, ethics, especially in work. 

Marks of parent leadership

  1. A parent leader focuses on the person in addition to overseeing the completion of the task and achieving of the desired outcome. He or she considers grooming of the individual as being of paramount importance as much as the completion of the job on hand.
  2. A parent leader measures his or her output or success by the transformation of the person, rather than just by the output gained in the successful completion of the job or project entrusted to them.
  3. A parent leader finds motivation, energy and fulfilment in the outcome of the person, ie., how the people entrusted to them shape up. They pour their enthusiasm into identifying and learning about the individual and what motivates them and then use these inputs to form the individual. 
  4. A parent leader has the uncanny ability to see below the surface and identify potential as well as weaknesses that are inherent in their trainees. Their focus will be to fortify and make room for their strengths while helping them to overcome weaknesses and flaws that will hinder the progress of the individual.
  5. A parent leader understands that changing the person, though it needs more effort and time, will ultimately result in better project results and more successful task outcomes.
  6. A parent leader takes responsibility for the individual and is empathetic, both to the dreams and failures of their team members. He or she does not throw their people under the bus, but stands up for them and pleads their cause.
  7. A parent leader considers those under him or her as disciples, protegees and inheritors, rather than as just employees or co-workers or team members.
  8. A parent leader is secure in who they are and hence do not find it hard to rejoice in the successes of their people. In fact, they feel thrilled when those under them do overtake them, for they know the part they played in that growth.
  9. A parent leader always gives his or her blessing to those who branch out from under their care. They willingly allow them to move on for they know how far they can impact. They understand that for the person to stay behind would stunt growth and therefore, release their personnel to fly high.
  10. A parent leader is never fearful of damaging his or her reputation by exercising strict discipline or strong measures. Their goal is to do so for the benefit of the person and hence are unafraid to exercise the rod, when and where it is required.

Parent leadership combines all of the other leadership styles, but adds a distinct and unique ingredient to it that spices up and flavours their craft – the art of care and nurture. 

Parent leadership is considering those given under you as your progeny and therefore, learning to rejoice in their growth and prosperity.

Parent leadership involves self-sacrifice and humility. It is to understand your own limits and limitations, comprehend the part you have to play and be willing to step back, into obscurity if needed, in order for your apprentices to move forward.

True Biblical leadership is parent leadership, especially in the church. It is no wonder leaders in the church need to have proven their mettle at home. It is in nurturing their families and taking responsibility for their growth and progress, leaders learn the art of parenting well. It is then they become eligible to lead and exercise authority in the bigger family, the church!

To the professional or traditional leader, his management is a post, a position and a vocation. 

To the servant leader, his administration is not a vocation or a style. It is a calling, stewardship and an influence! 

However, to the parent leader, his persuasion is a commitment and a sacred trust. To him or her, getting the work done is not enough; seeing their charge blossom and flower means much more. To them to see their ‘kid’ transform is reward enough.

Is it hard to believe such leaders exist? Is it a myth to expect parent leadership?

Maybe so, but I believe such leaders do exist. Many a teacher or instructor fully functions as a parent leader.

A parent leader is a rare find.

Blessed are if you find one or are under one!

*Pic courtesy google images

BATTLE STRATEGY: COVER YOUR BROTHER’S BACK!

I always love the scene in the movie Gladiator where a band of poorly armed slaves ward off and win over an attack by a group of heavily armed horsemen. They stand shoulder to shoulder and win the fight, simply because they guard each other’s backs and protect one another from danger. What a perfect illustration of what we should do and how we should stand for one another in this battle for spiritual survival!

In Ephesians 6:10-16, there is one part of the body that doesn’t seem to be covered by the armor: the back. The apostle Paul, after describing the various portions of the armor of God, concludes with a request to pray for him and his team that they would be granted the boldness to speak the gospel (Eph. 6:18-20). Prayer is needed not only to activate the armor, but also to provide protective armor and cover for the others’ backs in the warfare against the principalities and powers of darkness!

This passage in Scripture points out that our fight is not against people, but for people, against principalities, powers and rulers of darkness. We are not to fight people but wage warfare against spiritual forces of evil. We are not here to massacre one another nor stab each other in the back, but to fight a common enemy.

In our Christian faith walk, we are all members of the same household bearing His Name, not enemies or rivals. We are blood brothers and sisters, of the same family, bearing the same DNA, the gene of Christ. How can we then compete or clash with one another and anyway, why should we? We don’t have to be jealous nor strive for the attention of our God, for He loves and cares for all of us equally and without partiality.

We all have a Father Whose home is large enough for all of us. We have a Father Who considers each one very special to Him. No one can take another’s place nor can anyone push another out of His heart. Why then do we cross swords and lock horns with one another? He shows no favoritism and He cannot be manipulated or hoodwinked. Why then do we harm and hurt one another?

In this world there is much cutthroat competition and base thievery. In Christ, however, there is much quietness and confidence because of acceptance and acknowledgement. We all have a part and a portion in His Kingdom and His purposes. Why then should we tackle and tussle with one another as though we have to fight for our position with Him?

We have all been given the same commission and the same task: Be a witness for Him and rescue His people from bondage. In this charge, we are all engaged in battle against a common enemy and we must concentrate on defeating him, not one another. Our closing ranks to maintain an united front will be anathema to our wily enemy whose major battle strategy is: Divide and rule! Our unity will sound the death knell to his rule and that’s why he turns us against one another. Foolishly, without understanding this, we resist one another rather than resisting him, the father of lies!

Our prayers, which is our true battleground and combat arena, should serve to provide protective armor for the backs of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Our prayers are never to be used as weapons to wield or brandish against our own kind. The petition on our knees should not be daggers to stab our kith and kin in the back, but to rout and scatter our common foe. Instead of turning against one another, we need to walk in forgiveness towards one another so that together we can turn against the enemy and prevent him from gaining even an inch of space.

The book Hebrews says that the blood of Jesus spoke better things than Abel’s blood, why? It is because the blood of Abel cried out for vengeance and vindication, while the blood of Jesus calls out and pleads for forgiveness and reconciliation. If this so, we who are His brothers and sisters, called to imitate Him, how can we cry out for retribution and retaliation! That’s what Stephen, the first martyr did, when he prayed for forgiveness for his accusers even as he fell dead under their stones.

What is your blood and voice crying out for – revenge or restitution?

Covering our brother with our love and prayers is a family trait that’s already engraved and ingrained in our very deepest structure. We have been bequeathed with the nature of Christ and all we have to do is to walk in it. All we need to do is accept this fact and live by it!

Then we won’t behave as though we don’t have the same hereditary and heritage!

What if my brother or sister treat me as enemy, even when I don’t? Then you have the opportunity to exhibit the right behavior, even if they don’t! It only proves you are your Father’s child, even if they don’t behave as one!

Point out to them that they are of the same family and have been born of the same root. Ask them if they have been born another blood or borne by another father! Point out their error in love, still holding on to your stance without compromise – always protecting their backs.

Of course, it is not an easy thing to do so, but it is the right thing to do!

In combat, soldiers of a battalion guard each other’s back, especially on an attack mission. They depend on each other and defend each other, watching each other’s back. They become a band of brothers by learning to protect one another against the assault of a common enemy.

If this is the norm in a country’s army, how come we who are already a band of brothers/sisters who have to fight the same foe end up crippling one another and wounding one another?

You are indeed your brother’s keeper!

Let us remember, in a battle we stand together to win the war. United we stand, divided we fall!

When we reach home, we can settle our grievances and our differences!

For now, protect your brother or sister’s back.

Don’t stab them back or stab them in the back!

*Pics: Courtesy unsplash.com

HANDLING Weltschmerz!

Weltschmerz is a term coined by the German author Jean-Paul, from the German, literally world-pain, also world-weariness. In its original meaning in the Deutsches Wörterbuch (German dictionary by Brothers Grimm) it denotes a deep sadness about the inadequacy or imperfection of the world.

One of the things we are battling, apart from our fight against the corona virus, is weariness and vexation. We keep thinking that the end of lockdown has come, now we can come out of quarantine, life is going to be normal again, we can pick up where we left off and finally move on with life. Then, bam, the announcement comes, the period of shutdown has been extended and you go, ‘Oh no, not again, when will this end’!

We are not just tired, but also bewildered at the turn of events as we haven’t faced anything like this before. We are flummoxed with this new way of life and how to process it. We are seeking answers for the many questions that plague our mind.

The prophet Habakkuk in the Bible can surely identify with us, for he also lived in a time and season that raised questions in his mind. He was puzzled about many things and he set about seeking answers to his genuine doubts. His book is an apt read for this season, being an accurate reflection of his mindset and his progress through his perplexity.

Let’s see what he was worried about and how he resolved his problems.

Habakkuk noted that his nation had become filled with violence and wrongdoing. Everywhere he looked, he saw strife, conflict and destruction. Habakkuk knew that he and his people were chosen by God and belonged to Him. The why did God choose to be silent and without taking any action when the nation was filled with such violence and conflict? Why did He not bring justice and back up His law by punishing those who did evil?

God’s reply was that He was going to punish and discipline Israel by an enemy nation. Now Habakkuk is even more confused and at a loss. His question: How could You God, our own Protector and Preserver, sell us to our bitter foes? How could You use foreigners who are more corrupt to discipline us, Your own people who are trying to live by Your laws? How could You, a holy God Who hates treachery, use a wicked people to fulfil Your will and Your purposes, especially with regards to Your own inheritance?

Habakkuk’s question wasn’t a matter of doubting his God or testing Him, but a dispute and puzzle of faith!

Many of us can identify with Habakkuk’s quest of of faith. We are not questioning God and His power, but His seeming abandonment of the righteous. We are often puzzled about how and why the bad people seem to thrive and prosper, while those who strive to live and be good are put at the mercy and behest of the same vicious ones? Why would a holy and righteous God use renegades who delight in brutality to rule over or penalize the good people? If He wanted to streamline His people, why not do it some other way than allowing their lives to be under the mercy of the merciless? That’s the predicament we will face with God, at one time or another!

Note that Habakkuk did not question God, but genuinely wanted clarifications for what stumped him about God. He knew his God and therefore could not understand this aspect of God – how could He use the unrighteous His instruments? It went contrary to all that Habakkuk knew of God, His ways and His nature!

Habakkuk not only enquired and voiced out questions to clarify his honest confusion, but he also waited and gave time for God to get back to him with a reply. He said “I will stand like a guard and watch. I will wait to see what the Lord will say to me. I will wait and learn how He answers my questions.” (Hab 2:1 ERV). He not only asked questions, but also looked and listened for His answer, stoid watch for like a watchman on the walls of a city.

Habakkuk’s dedication and devotion to wait until he heard from God are the key to his hearing God and a mark of his trust in God. He knew that God would indeed answer him and not ignore his search of faith. His willingness and faithfulness to watch until he received an answer from God demonstrates his stance and stand of faith.

This is where we fail and we are different from Habakkuk. Oftimes we do not have the tenacity or the patience to tarry for an answer from God. We ask or raise an enquiry, but then we scurry away do our own thing. We do not give time for God to answer nor watch for His reply. We move on to our next project that captures our attention and then form our own conclusions about what constitutes the answer to our queries. We don’t listen to what God has to say and so erroneously conclude many things, especially about the nature of God. ‘God tells the man who cares’ is a true saying, for you need to understand that He has His timing. In the right season in the correct moment, He will always answer the one who cares to wait for Him.

God did answer Habakkuk and gave him to understand that when the wicked had fulfilled their role as a tool to discipline the righteous, they would be punished. God would not overlook their evil deeds, but in the due season would destroy those who make violence a way of life. Their turn would come when they would indeed drink of the cup of God’s wrath and destruction. God would call to account those who trust in riches and feel safe from trouble because of it, the reason they feel safe to bully others. They think they are inaccessible, but God has His own time to deal with them.

In seasons of distress, when evildoers seem to go unpunished, it is time for ‘the just to live by faith’. In the season of trouble it is important to realize that God is still on the throne. Soon there will come a day when the knowledge of Him would cover the earth as waters cover it.

While the unrighteous are busy gathering riches by hook or crook so that they would be protected and free from disaster, God’s people will trust in Him. God assures Habakkuk that those who are truly innocent will be preserved through the coming judgment and oppression by their godly lifestyle for God truly rewards the right way of life.

In contrast, those that are full of evil desires, greed and extortion will not be able to withstand God’s judgements nor His punishments. They will face the consequences of their conduct and careless life.

In spite of troubled lives, we need to realize that God is indeed on the throne and one day the whole earth would recognize and acknowledge the presence and glory of God. This is our anchor and safety that will hold us to right conduct and trust. Ultimately, those who choose to live unruly and unscrupulous lives will be punished. They will not escape surely, even though for now it looks as if they are successful and untouchable.

With his questions answered and his focus clarified, Habakkuk now responds with a prayer, a song and a confession of faith.

He prays to God to demonstrate His power as of old and pleads with Him to remember to be merciful, even when He is angry with His people and doling out His punishments.

He composes a song proclaiming the might and majesty of God, with joy declaring His glory and extolling His power over all, now that his questions have been answered.

He also makes a decision and a resolve to thank God, whatever may happen or whichever circumstance he may find himself in – loss or gain. He determines that he will still sing and thank God, content that God is the One who keeps him safe, always.

He ends with the bold and positive declaration that “The Lord God causes me to be strong. He makes my feet run safely over the rocks and hills, like a deer ‘s feet.”

Habakkuk found a way out of his doubts and a means to overcome his Weltschmerz, his world-weariness.

He took his troubles to God, watched and waited for Him to answer, thus finding a solution to his questions. He found rest as well as solace in the ensuing vision he had of God and His power towards those who are His very own.

How are you handling your questions and queries, your misgivings and your misfortunes, your woes and your Weltschmerz?

Are you drowning yourself in some addiction or taking it out your frustration on others or bullying those under you?

Or are you imitating a man who also had doubts, but found a way out to solid faith?

Learn from and imitateHabakkuk iin knowing how to handle your deepest anguish.

Turn and return to God for closure on your concerns and compelling issues.

Move over from a world-view that gives you Weltschmerz to a God-view that enlarges your vision to see beyond the natural, by faith!

https://www.worshipsong.com/component/melody/songdetails/we-must-wait

We Must Wait


Verse 1
I must wait wait wait on the Lord
I must wait wait wait on the Lord
And learn my lessons well
In His timing He will tell me
What to do where to go and what to say


Verse 2
We must wait wait wait on the Lord
We must wait wait wait on the Lord
And learn our lessons well
In His timing He will tell us
What to do where to go and what to say


Verse 3
You must wait wait wait on the Lord
You must wait wait wait on the Lord
And learn Your lessons well
In His timing He will tell you
What to do where to go and what to say

CCLI Song # 38222
Randy Thomas
© 1979 Maranatha! Music (Admin. by Music Services)
CCCM Music (Maranatha! Music [Admin. by Music Services])
For use solely with the SongSelect Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. http://www.ccli.com
CCLI License # 3225879

*Pics courtesy unsplash.com

EMPTY AND FULL

The car stops at the corner,
The street is empty and bare,
No need to wonder at the barren roads,
It’s the new normal we all have to live by,
It’s another way of life we have to get used to,
For we have made our hearts concrete just as the city.

The car travels on
Passing fields green with vital fife,
Rolling rivers team with brimming new life,
Mountains purple with shadows of passing clouds,
Birds and beasts roaming the now newly reviving wilds.
Denuded nature is returning to its pristine state and restful fullness.

*Friday Fictioneers is a talented group of enthusiasts penning down a story, a poem, prose, etc., expressing their heart about a photo prompt © Na’ama Yehuda