Blood Brothers: A Redemptive Analogy

More than a generation ago, Don Richardson popularized the idea that Christians who share Christ across cultures might encounter—and even ought to look for—“redemptive analogies” in those cultures.  The idea was that God has pre-placed customs or stories into cultures that prepare people to respond to the gospel.

I think this idea has some merit.  Is there any doubt that our sovereign and loving Lord has been active in countless ways to prepare people (and peoples) to receive the gospel?  I do not know how often God has included redemptive analogies among his tools for opening people to the message of Christ.  And I do not believe that searching for such analogies is the key to unlocking all the unreached areas of the world. But during my years overseas I tried to stay attentive to anything that might help people understand—and hopefully receive—the gospel message.  Today I want to tell you a story, a story that is read by every Turkish school child at some time during his or her primary education.  This is a well-conceived story that has the potential to illustrate—especially for those who grew up hearing it—the Christian message of One who came and died in our place.

The Oath

By Ömer Seyfettin

Retold by Kenneth Berding

My name is Ahmet Aslan.  I’m an old man now.  I love to sit on my porch, look out at my garden, and remember the days when I was young.  And whenever I do, my thoughts turn toward my childhood friend, Mistik.  You see, thanks to him, I’m alive.  I want to tell you his story, which is my story too.  Listen…

It was 1925.  I was twelve years old, living in Gönen, a small town south of Istanbul.  One day on the school playground I saw an older and much larger student named Ali hit a younger and smaller girl, Reyhan, who started to cry.  I watched from a distance as the schoolmaster, a burly and sometimes cruel woman, charged out to discover why Reyhan was crying.  The schoolmaster cornered Ali and demanded to know whether he had hit Reyhan.

“I’m sorry, teacher, I… I…” Ali stammered, clearly afraid of the schoolmaster.

“I command you to tell me what happened!”

Ali started to cry, but couldn’t bring himself to respond.  Suddenly, and quite unexpectedly, another student, Rasim, spoke up, “I’m sorry, schoolmaster, it wasn’t Ali.  I’m the one who hit Reyhan.”

The old woman turned from Ali and focused her wrath on Rasim.  She struck him hard, and Rasim fell to the ground with tears welling up in his eyes.  But I saw something else on his face, something I couldn’t understand.

Later that day as we were walking home from school I caught up to him to ask him.  “Rasim, I don’t understand.  Ali was the one who hit Reyhan, not you.  Why did you…?”

“Yes, that’s right…  I wasn’t the one who hit Reyhan; Ali did.  But we’re blood brothers.”

“What does that mean?  How did you become blood brothers?”

“You see,” he replied, “Ali and I became blood brothers when we made a little cut on the skin on our arms and mingled our blood together as a way to show our commitment to each other.  Ever since that day, I have been bound to help Ali, and I know that he will always help me.”

The following day, I watched as two other older boys on the playground cut their arms and became blood brothers.  I wanted to have a blood brother too.  So in the evening, I talked to my mother about it.  She wasn’t happy at all about this idea.

“Cutting your arm is dangerous.  You can still be good friends without cutting yourself.”

“But Mom, I don’t have any brothers or sisters.  This way I can have a brother.”

“I don’t want you cutting yourself.  Besides, you’ve always been afraid of blood.”

That was true.  I hated the sight of blood.  I could never intentionally cut myself.  But I still wanted a blood brother.

There was a boy who lived near my house.  His name was Mistik.  He was a big boy—and strong too; but he was gentle toward everyone.  The other kids at school liked him.  He never retaliated, even when the girls chanted verses at him simply to annoy, like this one:

“Mistik’s cart…Doesn’t start…Mistik doesn’t know…How to make it go”

Mistik would simply laugh and ignore their taunts.

One day, when I was playing near my house, I accidently cut my finger on a bottle.  Blood was running down my finger onto my hand.  Mistik saw the blood and ran over to me.  “Are you OK?” he asked.

“Yes, I’m OK.”

And then in a moment of inspiration I knew what to do.  “Mistik, I need to ask you something.”

“What?”

“Would you become my blood brother?”

“Your blood brother?”

“Yes.  Look, my finger is bleeding.  We can do it right now.”

“But don’t you have to cut your arm?” he asked.

“It will be OK,” I urged, knowing this might be my only chance.  “There’s plenty of blood on my finger.”

Mistik looked uncertain for a moment, and then a huge smile broke out on his face and he said, “OK, let’s do it!”

Mistik pulled out his knife and cut his arm just enough to get a bit of blood flowing.  He grabbed my bleeding hand with his other arm and pulled it toward his bleeding arm.  We mixed our blood together and swore allegiance.  From that day forward, I had a blood brother.

Weeks passed and my friendship with Mistik grew steadily.  It was clear that our commitment to each other was strong.  Then came the day I will never forget.

It was a hot day.  We had been released from school early and were sauntering our way toward home.  Mistik was humming; I was kicking a stone.  It felt like summer.  Life was good.  All of a sudden, we heard shouting, looked up and saw something terrifying.  A crazed dog was sprinting our direction.  Three men were chasing the dog, and they were shouting at us.  “Run!  The dog is dangerous!”

Mistik and I turned to run, but I tripped and fell.  The dog seized upon my weakness and rushed toward me.  In that terrifying moment I beheld the scariest thing I’d encountered in my life bearing down upon me.  I cried out.

Mistik turned around, saw what was happening, and ran back toward me.  In the final second, instead of attacking me, the dog jumped over me and lunged toward Mistik, knocking him to the ground.  The dog and my friend fought.  The dog bit Mistik.  Mistik kicked the dog.  The dog bit him again.

It all happened so fast; I didn’t know what to do.  The three men ran over and beat the vicious dog off Mistik with sticks.  The dog gave up his attack on my friend and escaped.

Mistik struggled to his feet.  His shirt was dirty and torn and there was blood on his face and on one of his legs.  “I think I’m OK,” he said, “At least I’m alive.”

One of the men spoke to Mistik.  “We need to take you straight home.  That dog was sick.”

The next day Mistik wasn’t at school.  I wanted to know how he was doing.  On my way home I stopped by his house and asked his mother how he was.

“He’s not well at all.  He is sick…very sick.”

“Can I see him?” I asked.

“No, I’m sorry.  He is too sick to see you.”

The next day I learned that Mistik had been taken to a hospital in Bandirma.  The following day I was told that he had been transferred to a large hospital in Istanbul.

One day later I stopped by Mistik’s house to see if anyone there could tell me what was going on.  Mistik’s mother opened the front door, her eyes bloodshot.  When I asked about Mistik, her eyes filled with tears and she spoke in a whisper.  “Mistik passed away last night.  Mistik is…dead.”

She cried.  I cried with her.  My friend had died.  My brother—my blood brother—was dead.

I’m an old man now.  Many years have passed, but I remember it all as if it happened yesterday.  Whenever I look down at the scar on my finger, I remember my friend Mistik who died in my place.  It should have been me.  I should have been the one who died.  But I’m alive because of my blood brother who gave his life for me. [1]

[1] This is a shortened version of Ömer Seyfettin’s story Ant.  “Ant” is a Turkish word that translates into English as “covenant,” “promise,” or “oath.”  A slightly longer version in English of the same story is told by Simon Greaves, The Blood Brothers, ed. Cathy Hall (Orient Structural Readers Stage 3).  My version is not simply a translation; it is an abbreviated retelling that includes some lines directly rendered from Seyfettin’s original Turkish.  One more thing…  In the original story, they actually drink each other’s blood, but I thought that was too disgusting to include.

 

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