“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.” (Matthew 7:15–20 NLT)
Because most citrus trees can be more susceptible to diseases than some other types of trees, the standard practice is to graft the trunk of a citrus tree onto the rootstock of a hardier species. This can help to ensure the tree survives a long time to provide decades of delicious fruit. However, it also comes with a danger. Because the rootstock is hardier than the citrus tree grafted onto it, it can begin to take over. One of the first signs this is taking place is a new branch growing out of the trunk underneath where the graft was made. If that new growth, which is called rootstock sucker, is not removed, it will take more and more nutrients away from the fruit-bearing portion of the tree, initially causing it to yield less-desirable fruit until it reaches the point of no return when it is no longer able to grow any fruit at all and the citrus tree has been overtaken by the rootstock.
In recent years, there have been a number of well-known and highly regarded pastors and leaders within Christian circles who were revealed to have committed some horrible misdeeds: misuse of power, abuse of trust, sexual misconduct, and pulpit shaming, among others. Some of these leaders abused their positions for years, possibly even from the beginnings of their ministry. However, there are others who only committed their misdeeds after decades of impeccable Kingdom service. These leaders failed to keep an eye out for their own personal rootstock suckers – their sinful nature and desires of the flesh. We often like to think of our Christian leaders as unimpeachable, but the truth is that they are flawed and broken, just like us; no matter how long any of us have followed after Christ and served his Kingdom, we are still susceptible to rootstock suckers.
However, there is still good news, possibly even the best news. None of us is irredeemable in God’s eyes. There is not a person alive today or who once lived or will one day live who is beyond the reach of the grace of God; there is no rootstock sucker that cannot be pruned away by God’s hands to allow fruit to once again grow freely and abundantly from our branches. Nevertheless, we must still remain vigilant and, through the help of the Holy Spirit, keep our eyes open to areas where we are most susceptible to our own personal rootstock suckers.