Ruby T. Campos, MA in Education, is an author, blogger, and associate professor in the School of Arts, Sciences, and Education at Central Philippine Adventist College, Negros Occidental, Philippines.

In March 2020, when the lockdown due to COVID-19 lurked in my place, my work in the physical classroom ceased. Trying to avert boredom and maximize my precious time, I resorted to gardening. I avidly worked my tiny piece of land, removing undesirable weeds and scattering them on the soil, where I left them to rot. As these unwanted shrubs decayed, they turned into natural garden fertilizers. After a final cleaning of the area, planting soon followed. I lodged some fruits, herbs, veggies, and crops. As I tended to my plants, a vast array of learning experiences transpired. Gardening taught me cherished instructions worth sharing. It unfolded before me a crystal-clear notion about faith. As my imagination opened, it dawned on me that, in some ways, Christians are much like plants. I have discovered, for example, the bitter gourd Christians.

The bitter-gourd Christians

The bitter gourd, which is also known as bitter melon and has the scientific name Momordica charantiae, “is a tropical and subtropical vine of the family Cucurbitaceae, widely grown in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean for its edible fruit. Its many varieties differ substantially in the shape and bitterness of the fruit.”1 It is a warm-season crop, chiefly grown in subtropical and hot arid regions. The bitter gourd plant is vulnerable to light frost and requires partial protection if grown during the cold seasons. High dampness during its growth makes the crop prone to various fungal diseases. As to the soil type, the bitter gourd can be grown on well-drained sandy to sandy loam medium black soils rich in organic matter. Muddy soil along the riverbeds is also good for its production. But wait. There is something more about this plant. The bitter gourd is a climbing plant. It always wants to go up. And to ascend, it needs a framework—a special kind of support for it to hang on. It requires a trellis to serve as its backing for proper growth. Without this, it is impossible for Momordica charantia to flourish and bear fruit.

Like the bitter gourd, some Christians require a support system. They need other Christians to climb on in order to flourish and bear fruit. These Christians need stronger members in the church during their spiritual ascent so that they can achieve something for the church and for God’s glory. Another thing: for the bitter gourd to thrive, it needs a warm climate. The bitter-gourd Christians demand the warmth of love from other church members. For this type of Christian, church coldness can be a real threat. Remember, the bitter gourd thrives best in a warm climate. So, when the church or members become cold, the bitter-gourd Christian’s spiritual life begins to wane and soon dies out. Sooner or later, the bitter-gourd Christians will not be found inside the church. The Bible emphasizes this concept when it says, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25, KJV).

So, Christians are much like plants. Placed or buried on the same ground, given the same sunlight and nutrients, they react differently as they grow in their soil. Christians who read the same Bible, accept the same doctrines, and even attend the same church but still think and act differently. Created by the same God, they emerge with unique characteristics, personalities, and completely different thoughts. Their views differ. Their ways of doing things vary. They respond to the same situations but in dissimilar ways. But that is how our God created them—different, varied, and diverse.

Christian leaders need to expand their minds when working with these believers. Open-mindedness is key here. So is patience. When members react to certain conditions in a manner entirely unlike theirs, leaders need to stay calm, watch closely, and pray constantly for these Christians. Paul aptly reminds us, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1, 2, KJV).

  1. Wikipedia, s.v. “Momordica charantia,” last modified October 17, 2023, 19:41, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Momordica_charantia.

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Ruby T. Campos, MA in Education, is an author, blogger, and associate professor in the School of Arts, Sciences, and Education at Central Philippine Adventist College, Negros Occidental, Philippines.

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