Forgiveness in the shadow of death

In the summer of 2016, Jamison Pals drove through Nebraska with his wife Kathryne, and their three young children: Ezra, 3; Violet, almost 2; and Calvin, 2 months old. As traffic slowed down for construction, a semi truck, driven by a 53 year old driver named Tony Weekly slammed into the back of the Pals family. Their car burst into flames. All five died (a sixth person in another car also died from injuries related to this accident).

The family had been driving from Minnesota to Colorado to train as missionaries, with plans of being sent to Japan.

Last week, the driver was sentenced. Advocating for him was an unlikely source: the victim’s own families. “We ask the court to give the maximum allowable grace,” Kathryne Pal’s father Gordy Engel said before the court.

Tony Evans was sentenced to six months in jail for his crime.

The grace and forgiveness of the families I find inspirational. It’d be easy to hate this man. It’d be easy to never want to forgive him.

But the families have publicly forgiven him. They’ve embraced and hugged him, they’ve prayed for him, and shown him love.

That’s the power of the gospel. It’s a love that doesn’t even make sense. This man’s actions took away six lives and a beautiful young family. And yet, their relatives can forgive.

Rick Pals (the father of Jamison Pals) said in court: “I can honestly say Tony, both families have forgiven you…I know how much God has forgiven me. How could I not forgive you?”

For Christians, forgiveness is never given as an option. We are always called to forgive others. In the face of tragedy, these two families have shown something profound, something beautiful.

41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”

Luke 7:41-43

Josh Benner is the associate pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in Minnesota.

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