Unfortunately, those zinnias began growing something besides blooms. It started at the bottom, with black-rimmed white spots on just a few lower leaves. It spread from one plant to several in an area until finally it had touched every single plant. Then it began its inexorable climb up until only the top few leaves remained green, and only the newest blossoms, barely opened from the bud, were clean. It took me awhile to realize what was happening, and by the time I figured it out, it was too late.
Still, I didn’t want to pull the plants. They did have a little green left at the top, and where there is life there is hope, right? Finally after several mornings of looking out on what had once brought joy to my mornings and seeing instead a mass of black leaves and stems, I made a decision. Why did I have these flowers anyway? Because they were beautiful, and even I could see all that color from a distance. Were they beautiful any longer? No, they were about as ugly as they could be. And the longer I waited, the further that fungus spread. The gaillardia were already infected, and a few of the marigolds.
So the next day I went out and began pulling. It wasn’t even laborious. Those plants were so sick that they came right up out of the ground, and do you know what I found underneath? New seedlings growing from the deadheads I had been cutting all summer. If I had left those ugly things much longer, the baby plants would have been choked out by the much larger roots and then infected as well. Now they can breath and grow, and the sunlight reaches their tiny leaves. I have already gotten out the copper spray, a fungicide that is even considered “organic,” not that I would care since my goal is to save those new flowers no matter what it takes, and they aren’t on the menu anyway.
Still, it was hard to make that decision. I have trouble even thinning the rows in the vegetable garden. It goes against my nature to pull up a plant that is still alive, even if it does mean better production from the ones you leave, and far more food on my shelves to last the winter.
Sometimes we have to make decisions like that with souls. Give not that which is holy to the dogs, nor cast your pearls before swine, Matt 7:6. Who wants to make that judgment call? And whosover shall not receive you nor hear your words…shake the dust off your feet, 10:14. It is difficult to give up on someone you have invested a lot of time in, someone you have come to care about. But sometimes our refusal to do so is costing many more souls out there the chance to hear and accept the word while we waste time on the stubborn and rebellious.
Sometimes that decision must be made among ourselves too. A little leaven leavens the whole lump, Paul warned about immorality in 1 Cor 5:7, and then used exactly the same warning about false doctrine in Gal 5:9. If you know anything about cooking, you know that leaven is alive. It may not be a fungus, but it creeps in exactly the same way and spreads. No matter how small a chunk of it you use, that dough will suddenly react, and there is no going back when it does. Speaking of false teachers in 2 Tim 2:17, Paul says, “Their word eats as does a gangrene.” When gangrene eats away the flesh, it’s gone.
Yes, we have to make these tough decisions, but I have seen some people make it with a little too much zest. God never enjoyed it. I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, He said, Ezek 33:11. God would have all men to be saved, Paul says, 1 Tim 2:4, and Peter reminds us that God is not willing that any should perish, 2 Pet 3:9. He waited a long time before He finally punished His people, and even then it was with anguish: How shall I give you up…how shall I cast you off…my heart recoils within me, my compassion grows warm and tender, Hos 11:8.
God never meant for this decision to be easy, but sometimes it has to be made. It isn’t compassion not to make it—it’s cowardice. My medical book says that fungus spreads worst among very young children and those who are already ill. We must look underneath those infected branches to see the reason for our decision—to save many more before they too are infected with a fatal disease. The souls who were sacrificed in the arenas by the Roman persecution are depicted as asking God, How long until you will judge and avenge our blood? Rev 6:10. Desperate souls may be out there asking us, "How long are you going to waste time on the unwilling, when we want it so badly?”
"Rejoice with him, O heavens; bow down to him, all gods, for he avenges the blood of his children and takes vengeance on his adversaries. He repays those who hate him and cleanses his people's land." Deuteronomy 32:43