The plan was to eat, have a few drinks and then skip out on the bill. They never planned on being involved in a murder. But they were. It happened on a Friday night in January several years ago. Three teenagers and a 26-year-old friend went to Bennigans restaurant in Irving, Texas. They ate, had a few drinks and ran up a bill that totaled over $130. That’s when, according to Irving police, the tragedy began to unfold.
A little after 1:00 a.m., the three teenagers left first, getting into a 1978 Chevy Nova. The 26-year-old, close behind, got into his own vehicle and left. Their waitress, 20-year-old Jennifer Sanchez, a college student at North Lake College, followed them to the parking lot and was attempting to write down the license number when she was struck by the Nova. She fell onto the trunk, authorities said, and as the car sped forward was thrown onto the pavement where she sustained fatal head injuries.
Within a few minutes, the three teenagers were arrested not far from the restaurant. Later that day, Jennifer died at Parkland Memorial Hospital.
It was the response of Jennifer’s father that captured my attention. How would you respond if your college-age daughter had just been killed? Daniel Sanchez, Jr. responded with grace. In the hours following the tragedy, Mr. Sanchez said, “It has been devastating. Only by the grace of God have we been able to make it this far.” He went on to say that we’ve all made mistakes in life. “Whether what they did was intentional or unintentional, whatever the case, they have feelings, too. If anything our heart goes out to them.”
Mr. Sanchez didn’t stop there. He said he wouldn’t wish this tragedy on anyone, including the people connected with his daughter’s death. “I don’t wish this upon anybody,” he said. “For their loved ones, it’s a no-win situation. It’s a tragedy, devastating on both sides.” As more of the details of the senseless murder of his daughter came out and it was clear the driver of the Chevy Nova was an 18-year-old girl, Mr. Sanchez’s response was, “My heart goes out to this young lady.” When the time is right, he said he planned to meet with her. When he did, my guess is … his response was grace.
So what’s more amazing? Receiving grace or giving it?
That’s amazing! Grace always is. Completely undeserved. Absolutely unmerited. Yet, we are given grace. Do we regularly give grace to those who hurt us? God does. The “God of all grace” (1 Peter 5:10) regularly and repeatedly gives grace to all of us.
So what’s more amazing? Receiving grace or giving it? I’m not really sure. One thing I am sure of is that if we’d spend more time giving grace, we’d probably see more times when we receive it.
I love the words to that old song, “Grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that will pardon and cleanse within; Grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that is greater than all our sin.”1
Grace is always amazing. Whether it’s from our heavenly Father or from an earthly father who just lost his daughter in a tragic, untimely death.
Give grace to those who don’t deserve it. That’s what God does. That’s what Mr. Sanchez did. That’s what you and I need to do more of … every day.
By the way, if you asked me to describe what Mr. Sanchez looked like, I couldn’t. Because even though I saw him on TV, I really can’t remember what he looked like.
All I know is … he reminded me of JESUS.
© 2019. Barry L. Cameron
1 Julia H. Johnston and Daniel B. Towner, Marvelous Grace of Our Loving Lord (1911). © 1910 and 1938. Hope Publishing Co., owner.
Barry L. Cameron has been the Senior Pastor of Crossroads since 1992 when the church was averaging 188 in morning worship. Pastor Cameron and his wife, Janis, have three children and two grandsons. He’s the author of the bestseller: The ABCs of Financial Freedom, Contagious Generosity, and The Financial Freedom Workbook. The Cameron family has been completely debt free since November 2001.