I did 1000 pushups last Saturday to kickoff summer. Yep, that’s not a typo! Will has done 200 a day for over a year without missing a single day and Ty won the national guard push-up pull-up challenge last year. Kade and Reid are also right there with us! Our family does thousands of push-ups and pull ups every summer. It connects us as a family (and others that join us in our spiritual family in this pursuit); and builds confidence, camaraderie, and “challenge” to our relationships. A few days after I did 1000 one of my best friends (Phil) and his boys that have joined us in this pursuit over the past years decided he was going to match my challenge. I joined Him in the challenge and by 5:00 we had hit our 1000. Then we decided we could do more and by 8:00 we found ourselves spurring each other on to finish 1500 together. This is the kind of challenger that the Bible encourages each of us to be to one another.

“It will come about in that day,” declares the Lord, “That you will call Me Ishi and will no longer call Me Baali.” Hosea 2:16 NASB

Ishi – “For Hosea, at the core of Baal worship is the primitive idea that God rules the world by force, as husbands rule families in societies where power determines the structure of relationships. Against this, Hosea paints a quite different possibility, of a relationship between marriage partners built on love and mutual loyalty. God is not Baal, He-who-rules-by-force, but Ish, He-who-relates-in-love, the very word Adam used when he first saw Eve. The God to whom we speak in prayer is not the ultimate power but the ultimate person, the Other in whom I find myself.”[1]

God isn’t a cosmic moral policeman, that is an unbiblical pagan idea that is the opposite of what God does and who He is. Jesus continually set the record straight and he deliberately changed the perceived hierarchy of master-slave to teacher-friend in John 15:15. Hierarchy in the church and spiritual family is the world not God.

Hosea 2:16 is a rare occurrence where the Hebrew word isn’t translated in English, we just read the Hebrew and it is intentional as the Hebrew slang. Ish(i) is a Hebrew word of exclaimed joy in the presence of another. It is also the Hebrew word for husband. In this way it is a contronym. It can mean an extreme of something one way or the other. It’s asking God to take your worst curse and turn it into your greatest joy. In a similar way, it can also be used as a slang word in Hebrew for acting childish. Women would roll their eyes an say iiiiish. That’s were we get that expression. The word challenger is also a Biblical contronym. A challenger can be someone that brings out the best in a person or one that reduces them.

Family, specifically marriage under God, (but also within the church family narrative) shouldn’t be based on power. In our spiritual family, push-ups represent the opposite of what they do to the world. They don’t show strength or a challenge to beat someone in our family; they show a challenge to encourage and promote each other. To help each other rise to what others think is impossible. It’s a continual picture (mosaic) of what God wants to do in us. To take us farther in Christ, spurring each other on to be better for the kingdom. In Christ our spiritual family is unified to bring out the best on each other. It’s the opposite of what the world defines as a “challenge;” and in the same way that God challenges opposite of what the world thinks. God isn’t continually policing us, He is continually “challenging” us to be better in Him, and asking us to be like Him in our relationship with others in His kingdom.

The Biblical idea of marriage within covenant relationship and the church as the bride of Christ isn’t based on power. Ish(i) (my spouse) is based on the excitement of finding myself challenged and edified, and admonished by the other person.

I am who I am because of who she/we are in Christ. I have learned a lot from boys. Every person has the ability to bring anyone else to a better place regardless of “status.”

Paul says the same thing when he speaks of mutual submission in marriage (Ephesians 5:21). Domination is not love. God is love and teaches us the opposite… to challenge or lead by edification and servant hood. Lead like Jesus as a backwards picture of what the world says leadership looks like.

Be a challenger today by Jesus’ definition and not the worlds. Challenge others to be more like Him.

[1] Jonathan Sacks, Radical Then, Radical Now, p. 84. 

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