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Pastor Opened His Home to Ruthless Communist Leader

For Uwe Holmer, a German pastor, the question wasn’t simple. But it was clear.

The one-time East German dictator Erich Honecker was asking for his help. Honecker had long been an enemy of the church, who had also personally harried and harassed Holmer’s own family for years.

But now the Communist leader had been pushed from power, driven from his home, turned out of a hospital onto the street—and he was asking the Lutheran church to take him in. At one point, Holmer found himself praying for Erich Honecker. He knew how much power the Communist leader had, how he was praised everywhere he went, and how bad that must be for his soul.

Holmer had to decide what he believed. He knew what the answer was.

“Jesus says to love your enemies,” he explained to his neighbors at the time. “When we pray, forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us—“we must take these commands seriously.”

The evangelical minister accepted the deposed dictator into his home in January 1990 and cared for him and his wife Margot for two and a half months. The action shocked Germans, East and West. The 40-year division of the country had just collapsed, and as the Cold War came to a surprising end, the German people didn’t know how they should treat those on the other side.

The until-then unknown pastor offered one bold answer: forgiveness and hospitality. Bitterness, Holmer said, is “not a good starting point for a new beginning among our people.”

Protestors arrived to yell at the minister and demand punishment for Honecker. “No grace for Honecker!” one sign said. Holmer reminded his neighbors of a statue of Jesus in town with Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all you who are weary … and I will give you rest.” He reminded them of the Lord’s Prayer, asking God to forgive them as they forgave others.

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