Fellowship is a two-way matter. Every part of the human body needs to Receive assistance from, as well as give assistance to, the other parts of the body. So too in the Body of Christ.

We must be humble enough to acknowledge our need of encouragement from others. It is a proud spirit that professes to be able to carry on without any encouragement from anyone. If we are honest, we must acknowledge that we are able to live and work much better when encouraged. Each of us needs encouragement.

Consider the attitude of the apostle Paul, when writing to the young Christians at Rome: "I long to visit you," he says, "so that I can impart to you the faith that will help your church grow strong in the Lord. Then, too, I need your help, for I want not only to share my faith with you but to be encouraged by yours: each of us will be a blessing to the other." (Rom. 1:11-12 TLB). There we have a clear example of how the members of the Body are to function towards each other. Even the great apostle, despite all his experience and maturity, recognized his need to receive help and encouragement from the young Christians at Rome. We too need one another's help and encouragement.

We must also be humble enough to receive admonition from others. All of us have faults. What is worse, all of us have `blind spots', so that we are not able to see some of our faults as clearly as others can see them. This is where other members of the Body can help us - if we are willing to receive their help. If, however, they sense a proud, unteachable spirit in us, they may never come and tell us what they see, and we alone will be the losers.

Paul was faithful to rebuke Peter when he saw Peter compromising. And Peter, in turn, was humble enough to accept Paul's rebuke, for he saw that Paul was right. The result was that others were blessed too, and the Body of Christ was built up (Gal.2:11-16). What loss might have been incurred, if Paul had kept silent or if Peter had been too proud (as the senior apostle) to receive the word of correction!

Are we accessible and open to those who may have a word of reproof for us? Or do we indicate to others by our attitude, that we do not want any criticism? If other members of the Body find it difficult to approach us with advice, it is more than likely that even Christ the Head may be finding it difficult to get through to us.

One of the clearest tests of our spiritual condition is our attitude to criticism. Here is what the Bible says on this theme:

"It is better to be criticized by a wise man than to be praised by a fool!....Anyone willing to be corrected is on the pathway to life....To learn, you must want to be taught. To refuse reproof is stupid.....If you refuse criticism you will end in poverty and disgrace; if you accept criticism you are on the road to fame....If you profit from constructive criticism you will be elected to the Wise Men's Hall of Fame. But to reject criticism is to harm yourself and your own best interests...The wise man learns by listening ..... Don't refuse to accept criticism; get all the help you can...Wounds from a friend are better than kisses from an enemy " (Eccl.7:5 TLB; Prov.10:17 TLB; Prov.12:1 TLB; Prov.13:18 TLB; Prov.15:31-32 TLB; Prov.21:11 TLB; Prov.23:12 TLB; Prov.25:12 TLB; Prov.27:6 TLB)

The Body of Christ will be built up as each member fulfills his responsibility in giving and receiving.

 Zac Poonen