Blood Oath

“Crazy Phil” Leonetti rose to power and became the underboss of the Philadelphia—Atlantic City La Cosa Nostra in the 1980’s. He had already committed two murders in furtherance of their business before he became “made” as a full-fledged member.

During the “Blood Oath” ceremony years earlier, then mob boss, Phil Testa, pointed to a knife and gun laid before him. “Would you use these to protect your friends? Would you place this brotherhood before everything that you love in your life? If you had a wife or a child and they were on their deathbed and we needed you, would you leave them and join us?”

“Yes” was Crazy Phil’s response to each question.

Following the oath of allegiance, Nicodemo “Little Nicky” Scarfo, a bloodthirsty killer himself, and a man who later became the mob boss of the same area, pricked Crazy Phil’s finger with a tie clip, and then told him to cup his hands. Little Nicky lit the picture of a saint on fire, and then placed it in the hands of Crazy Phil. “May I burn like this saint,” he was told to repeat until the flame extinguished, “if I betray my friends.” [1]

As I read about this process documented in the book, Mafia Prince, I thought about the contrasting lifestyles between members of the mob, who follow the money for power, and members of God’s kingdom, who follow Jesus for purpose.

The resurrected Christ asked Peter to take an altogether different oath after denying Jesus three times before he was crucified.

When Jesus met Peter after the resurrection, not so coincidently he asked him three times if he loved him. On each occasion Peter affirmed his devotion to his Lord and Savior, and Jesus successively instructed Peter, “Feed my lambs,” “Tend my sheep,” and “Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17). Jesus continued by foretelling Peter’s future and completed his directions by saying, “Follow me.”

Mob boss, Phil Testa, was later murdered. While reading the book, I lost count how many murders Little Nicky was responsible for, but he has been serving a life sentence in prison since 1988. At 87 years of age, his earthly term may end soon. His nephew, and underboss, Crazy Phil Leonetti, was indicted on ten murders. He agreed to cooperate with the FBI and eventually testified against 48 members of the mob. After serving five years in prison, he was released and now lives in hiding.

Ultimately, the apostle Peter’s faith cost him his life as he was crucified for his publicly bold assertions. Yet Peter’s eternal destiny is secured by his faith in the resurrected Messiah. The incredible thing about substitutionary atonement, Christ paying the price for our sin, is that it is offered to all humanity—even members of the mob.

If you have issue with God making this offer to everyone, you might find the history of Saul of Tarsus equally fascinating.

In the meantime, I will “feed the lambs, tend the sheep, and feed the sheep,” for I too have denied Jesus three times or more!

What is the condition of your heart? Are you ready to receive God’s grace and be forgiven? Has his mercy found you hiding? Are you ready to live for Jesus and secure your place in heaven?

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Romans 10:9-10).

While there are earthly consequences for your actions, the eternal offer is on the table for members in law enforcement and the mob alike!

-Jim McNeff


[1] Philip Leonetti, with Scott Burnstein and Christopher Graziano, Mafia Prince, (Running Press 2012, 2014), 101.


#bloodoath #Godsgrace #substitutionaryatonement

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