Uwe Holmer didn’t mean to have a moment of fame. He was simply a German Lutheran pastor who lived his faith in a way that astounded his fellow countrymen.

As a college student in 1953, Holmer bid his family goodbye as they escaped East Germany. He stayed behind because he knew communist control of the country would precipitate a shortage of pastors. During the ensuing decades, Homer married, had ten children, and served as pastor and teacher. Because of his Christian convictions, the communists denied his children access to higher education. The Stasi security apparatus placed him under surveillance. The man in charge of security at that time was Erick Honecker.

Honecker was instrumental in the construction of the Berlin Wall (1961). He claimed responsibility for giving the order to shoot anyone trying to escape to the West. As a result, 300 people died grasping for freedom. In 1971, Honecker became leader of the communists and the government. But instead of following the reforms of the Soviets, Honecker sided with North Korea and Cuba in holding to hardline communist dictates.

The people wouldn’t have it. In 1989, they ousted the despised Honecker. He fled to Moscow, but Germany extradited him to face trial for human rights abuses. It was to be a high profile proceeding against a cruel communist. But it didn’t happen because doctors diagnosed Honecker with terminal liver cancer. By this time, the government had confiscated his property and assets. He and his wife had no place to go.

Here’s what happened next, in the words of Pastor Holmer. “They were a helpless, desperate couple. We felt that we should not start the new era with hatred and contempt, but with reconciliation.” So Holmer made room in his home for the Honeckers, who stayed for months until they could travel into exile. It was meant to be a private act of forgiveness, but journalists and protesters learned about it. The public was astounded.

Holmer cited the words of Jesus to explain his actions. “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors,” Jesus taught us to pray (Matt. 6:12). The heart transformed by the love of Christ Jesus is a heart familiar with charity and forgiveness. It does not suffer self-harming bitterness by clinging to past offenses. Life is too short. It is you who benefit from forgiving others because it allows you to heal, move forward, and be like Jesus.

Holmer’s actions motivated by his faith follow this thought: “Live such good lives among the (non-believers) that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us” (1 Pet. 2:12). Uwe Holmer did that. In 2023, he left the land of the dying for the land of the living. He was 94.