Indian Balsam


I walked along the Ribble’s banks this summer, and was impressed by the beauty of an exceptionally common plant- Indian or Himalyan Balsam. Bees love it and its flowers are a pretty pink. Yet it’s a controversial flower. Introduced to Britain from India in the 1830s, it was advertised as an exotic and cost-effective plant which even the poor might enjoy. Unfortunately, it escaped the gardens of the upwardly mobile, and dominated our riverbanks. Growing up to ten feet, it overshadowed our native species, hindering photosynthesis and seed production. It requires little light and tolerates poor soil, so it thrives where others struggle. Each plant produces about 800 seeds, the pods of which explode over the adjacent areas. This aggressive growth and reproduction renders it a commonplace riverside resident. Conservation groups are known to engage in ‘balsam bashing’, clearing land from this plant’s vast usurpation.

When those sons of empire brought back this charming-looking plant, little did they know the ecological damage they were unleashing, long outliving them. How apt is this plant a picture of our sin! Some sins appear as horrid as they are- murder, rape, assault. Others appear rather more attractive, but still as lethal. Pride, envy and self-righteousness appear beautiful and invigorating when we engage them, yet they destroy us. These characteristics were not part of the Creator’s plans for us, yet they are now become native, killing off and impoverishing. The Christian life is one of balsam bashing. Each day, we must cut back and dig up the day’s fresh growth. Yesterday’s sins explode their seed pods into today’s fresh ground. Daily must we consecrate our hearts anew to grace and righteousness.

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

2 Cor. 5:21