The concept of redemptive analogies is credited to Don Richardson. In two books, Eternity in their hearts (1981, 1984, 2006) and Peace Child (1975), he describes how stories and practices in pagan cultures often illustrate aspects that are essential to the Gospel. These stories and practices can then be utilized for the presentation of the Gospel. God has embedded the truth in strange places!
“The key God gave us to the heart of the Sawi people was the principle of redemptive analogy – the application to local custom of spiritual truth. The principle we discerned was that God had already provided for the evangelization of these people by means of redemptive analogies in their own culture. These analogies were our stepping-stones, the secret entryway by which the gospel came into the Sawi culture and started both a Spiritual and a social revolution from within.” (Peace Child [Regal, 1974], p. 10)
Here is a redemptive analogy from Ethiopia.
Among the Maale there is a man called a “Maale Master”, who acts as “asylum-person”. Belonging to a tribe of priests, he helps to appoint the king and is like a high priest.
When a murder has been committed, by accident or pre-planned, he hastens to the accused, in order to prevent war between the clan of the murderer and the murdered. He sends messages to the two clans promising that he will organize reconciliation, and that therefore no revenge should be taken. He warns them that, if they disobey, people of both clans will die.
He summons the two clans to a meeting, where he separates them into two groups. A lamb is cut in half, and strung up in a structure specially built for the occasion. The two groups pass through the dripping blood, walking from one side to the other. By this act, they are reconciled. There is no more talk of revenge and no fighting. They are totally reconciled. The message is that ‘killing each other for whatever reason is wrong.’ By this ceremony, even the murderer is completely absolved.
The analogy is obvious:
“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed, … but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” (1 Pet 1.18, 19)
Paul points out that God reconciled us to each other and to Him through the cross (Eph 2.14-16).