The Importance of Community in God’s Creation – February 2017
Viewpoint of Mark Cadwallader, Creation Moments Board Chairman
A couple days before Christmas last year I was walking around in our backyard and came across something I had never seen before. It was unseasonably warm, and I noticed through the two-inch-tall grass a narrow but very distinct trail – a highway of ants carrying large leaf sections in one direction, and traveling “empty-handed” in the other.
I curiously followed the caravan of leaf-carrying ants and found their burrow into the ground where they were piling the leaf cuttings around the opening. Other ants at the opening were rolling up little balls of dirt they had excavated from underground. Then I followed the “empty-handed” ones to the other end of the winding trail for about fifty feet, past the garden and past the fig tree where they were foraging for leaves around our pear tree and traveling up its trunk to cut and carry out sections of the leaves. The whole scene became a great show-and-tell for family and friends who came over for Christmas, and a reason to step outside the house in the midst of the holiday fun – being another marvel of creation that drew exclamations of wonder and admiration for the industrious little critters!
I later looked up leaf cutter ants and realized this is an impressive example of “community” which the Lord has for us. These harvester ants cut leaves to haul back to their underground homes, make the leaves into a mulch and put the mulch in specific underground excavations, perhaps twenty feet down depending on the water table. There, other ants cultivate a special fungus which they grow in the leaf mulch as food for developing ants and the entire colony. So the ants depend on the fungus and the fungus depends on the ants – presenting a huge dilemma for evolutionists: If both the fungus and the ants need each other to survive, which came first?
When the mulch and fungus are spent, still other members of the community take this waste to special waste-bin caverns to segregate and process it by rolling it around. They do this because the waste becomes toxic to the food fungus. There are many different jobs for the ants, which graduate into and specialize in one function or another.
In the first chapter of Genesis, our Creator blessed the original created life, including human beings, by saying “be fruitful and multiply”, with all life reproducing in another repeated phrase “after his kind”. Basically, each “kind” of life was created to live in a propagated community of fellows. In fact, the Bible says we can learn wisdom from considering the ways of ants, which work diligently together for the good of their community and without direct supervision (Proverbs 6:6).
So it should be with Christians – as we are called “unto unfeigned love of the brethren … to love one another with a pure heart fervently” (1 Peter 1:22). And we are to understand our need for each other as we are each part of the body of Christ.
A body is indeed a functioning community – on multiple levels. Within the eye is a whole community of cells working together to produce sight. Within an ear or within the nose are whole communities of cells working together to hear or to smell. As the Bible famously says it, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body… If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? … Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1 Corinthians 12:13, 17, 27). The text further clarifies that we “need” each other for the proper function of the whole.
Human beings are made “in the image of God” and are unique in the creation in many ways because of that status. We were given “dominion” over the rest of creation in the same verse of Genesis 1 in which we were told to “be fruitful and multiply”. Our brain power, language skills and being able to use our versatile hands while we walk upright, among other things, set us apart as God’s special creation. Other creatures may outperform us in certain senses but none has the combination of ability and perception as well as the capacity for relationship with God that we do.
Scallops, for example, have more than a hundred miniature eyes that enable them to see in all directions at once. Dogs can hear sounds ranging from 64-44,000 Hz, which is why they can hear the high frequencies that we humans – who hear from 20-20,000 Hz – cannot. Bottlenose dolphins are even more capable of hearing higher-pitched sounds (ranging from 150-150,000 Hz!) – “ultrasound” which helps them navigate and “see” things with echolocation. Elephants (16-12,000 Hz) are equipped with their big ears to hear very low- pitched rumblings from other elephants that our ears cannot detect. The low frequency (long wavelength) sounds are not as easily absorbed by air molecules and project unimpeded for several miles to communicate, and therefore “create community” with other elephants.
Smell is another sense which the Bible mentions to teach us about our being knit together in community as the “body of Christ”. And we humans have more than four hundred different types of nerve cells in our nose so that we can distinguish more than three trillion smells! Yet, certain other created “kinds” – dogs, for example – are better smellers. And the lowly leaf cutter ants we observed this Christmas follow their trails by smell and can come back to an old trail even several months later.
You know, as we understand more about how our bodies function, we can really appreciate what it means to be part of a community of millions of believers in the body of Christ! It’s not just a few parts of the body we are talking about, but millions of different cells working together within the different parts of the body to make them function!
Just as there are so many ants working to support one another in community, each one of us is important in the community of Christ, working together to support and grow the entire body of believers!