His big voice matched the big man he is. As he often did when he sang solos in church, Allen1 asked the congregation to join him in singing. That day he chose a medley of old hymns that weren’t in the hymnal. Some of us knew the words, especially the choruses of these songs, while younger members of the congregation had never heard them before.
Allen switched melodies and his resonant baritone voice began singing the words, “I would love to tell you what I think of Jesus, since I found in Him a Friend so strong and true. I would tell you how He changed my life completely. . .”2
Allan’s voice caught and he couldn’t go on. Instead of the rest of the song, a story from an experience he’d had six years before tumbled out.
At the time, Allen was managing day laborers and transient workers at a warehouse. One particular man rode his bicycle about 10 miles to the job each day. “He was always on time; sometimes he arrived early,” Allen said.
“We need to hire him,” Allen told his boss. “he’s a good worker.” So Lorenzo worked as a regular employee at the warehouse for several months. During that time Allen helped the man open a savings account and found him a place to stay. Allen said he was happy he could help get the man off the streets into a more stable situation.
But Allen’s work situation was not pleasant. He worked hard and didn’t make much money. His hours were horrendous; sometimes he worked without a day off for 10 days straight.
One day when Allen was driving he saw Lorenzo and stopped his car to speak with him. But instead of a pleasant exchange between two friends, Allen got out of his car and challenged Lorenzo because of some trivial matter.
What kind of friend would do that to a person? What kind of friend would forgive so freely?
With a violence born of months of overwork and frustration, Allen hit Lorenzo “with incredible force.” He punched him twice, then with the force of his entire body he drove his elbow into the subdued man. Lorenzo landed on the hot pavement; his eyes rolled back, his nose and mouth bleeding. He was unconscious.
The men who saw the altercation shouted, “Don’t move him. Don’t move him!” But Allen’s sense of compassion aroused, and he moved Lorenzo to a cooler place in the shade, where Lorenzo began to come to.
When the police arrived, the men in the huddle sang out, “Arrest him. Arrest him.”
The police interrogated both Allen and Lorenzo and asked if Lorenzo wanted to press charges. The bystanders changed their chant to “Press charges. Press charges.”
Lorenzo had every right to press charges. Allen had severely injured him, and eager witnesses were willing to testify to the fact. “No,” Lorenzo said, “he’s my friend. He helped me when I needed help.”
The police left with everyone wondering, What kind of friend would do that to a person? What kind of friend would forgive so freely?
“That incident reshaped my life,” remembered Allen. “I was working hard, but I wasn’t getting ahead. I was angry and short-tempered because of fatigue. On a very personal level, I learned how important a Sabbath rest is. Before this experience Sabbath rest was just something I learned as a kid. Lorenzo was becoming a better person and here I came and knocked him out!”
Allen and the congregation (those who could still sing after hearing the story) finished the song, and he left the platform. The pastor came to the pulpit and presented his sermon. However, many in the congregation were still ruminating about the sermon they had already heard.
Barbara Huff lives in Punta Gorda, Florida.