Living as Apprentices
Recently I asked members of a class I was teaching to look up the terms symbiosis and synergy as part of their homework because those words were used in the chapter we were studying next. As does any teacher who has been surprised by having students return to class knowing more than he or she does, I decided I should look up the words, though I knew what the basic meanings were.
Here is what I found. Symbiosis comes from Greek roots meaning together and living. It refers to a close and often long-term interaction between two or more different biological species. Some symbiotic relationships exist because both species depend on each other for survival. Other symbiotic relationships are by choice, meaning that the partners can but do not have to live with the other. In some symbiotic relationships the partners live on each other; in others, one lives inside the other (like bacteria in humans)
Synergy, as it is used in organizational management, refers to the fact that a cohesive group is better than the sum of its parts. Synergy is the ability of a group to outperform even its best individual member. Teamwork will produce a better result than if each person within the group were working toward the same goal individually.
So why the references to biology and sociology in a blog about becoming like Jesus? Bear with me as I take you down the rabbit trail of thought that developed in my mind as I worked with these words.
As I read these definitions, it occurred to me that they can inform our understanding of our relationship with Jesus. Christians say that Jesus lives in us. But the truth is we can choose to ignore that “symbiotic” relationship or we can choose to make it an effective partnership. (Or we can even ignore the fact that it is true.) If we do choose to recognize the relationship and live in partnership with the Holy Spirit, there most certainly is synergy. We can do more with God than without God. We can be better with God than without God. And a church or a Christ-based community can transform lives and transform the world when the Christ in each member makes us better together than the sum of our parts.