Dracunculus medenisis, better known as the Guinea worm, is a parasitic nematode roundworm found in stagnant water. When the water containing worm larvae is consumed, the larvae mate inside a human abdomen and grow. Nasty little buggers these worms, some of them growing 2 to 3 feet long. Scientists are now studying a painting from an Italian church with an image of just such a worm coming out of a 14th century French saint. See the story here.
The symbiotic relationship doesn’t have to be parasitic (where one organism benefits at the expense of another), it could also be mutually beneficial. Dogs and humans have lived in a mutualistic – symbiotic relationship for hundreds of years now. The dogs supply protection and companionship while the humans provide food and shelter for their animal partner. Symbiosis in its simplest and easiest to see form.
Isaac Watts (1674-1748) wrote a wonderful old hymn titled, At The Cross. One line in the original text goes like this:
Alas! and did my Savior bleed, and did my Sovereign die?
Would he devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?
If you find this hymn in your hymnal today at church, I doubt very much if you’ll see it written this way. For many new hymnal providers have replace the word “worm” with “sinners.” For sinners such as I …
However, the image intended by Mr. Watts was not intended to be a pleasant picture, but to describe the depth of our sinfulness, when compared with the sinlessness of Jesus. We are indeed nothing more than parasitic worms when compared to the glory of the One who gave His life for us. We benefit at His expense. We live, while He died. We have hope and a future, because He was beaten and scourged. We are healed by those very stripes. We are worms. He alone is Lord of All. And make no mistake here, no one, not one person is above the rank of worm. Paul says, “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, since the same Lord of all is rich to all who call on Him.” [Romans 10:12]
So the question from all this becomes, as worms, are we parasites to God or is their a mutualism aspect of our symbiotic relationship? The answer lies in what we know about God, and the history of man’s origins. God created a male and female human being “in His own image,” according to Genesis 2. These human creatures were to walk and talk with God and have a relationship with Him. The “in His image” part helps us understand our purpose and meaning for this life, which is to bring God glory by reflecting His image everywhere on earth. The human entered a parasitic variant of this relationship when they chose to disobey God’s one command in the Garden, thereby robbing God of His glory.
Now, fast-forward to a day in the first century when God’s plan for a right relationship with humans was restored with Jesus sacrificing Himself on a Roman cross. The parasite relationship is replaced with a mutualistic symbiosis. Now a human being can be forgiven of their “worm-ness” and being reborn, can return to the mutually beneficial relationship created for them in the Garden. When a person steps over the line of faith into Jesus, God places His own Holy Spirit within them. I can truly say, Christ in me, and I in Him. I now through God’s Holy Spirit am empowered to bring Him glory. God through His Holy Spirit provides my every need for living – to bring Him glory. Symbiosis at its best!
Isaac Watts had it right. I am a worm as a sinner. But as a redeemed worm, I became a saint of God, bringing Him ultimate glory! Praise the Lord and pass the biscuits! I’m saved… At The Cross.