There are many themes that could be lifted from the movie, “Same Kind of Different as Me” which tells the truth life story of Debbie and Ron Hall and Denver Moore. The movie highlights the reality of racism that the Bible tells us is sin. Noted also are the quick and arrogant judgments we can often make about other people. Homelessness is a key theme. We can’t assume all homeless people have the same down and out story. Materialism and selfishness are on display. Our purpose for living is a theme of the film. Serving others is definitely highlighted. You can also watch how addiction strains family relationship and see the freedom that comes into Ron’s father’s life as he lays down alcohol and their relationship is finally restored. But I have chosen two other themes that emerge for us to focus on this morning. The first is the power of forgiveness and the second is the power of friendship.
Ron Hall was a successful art dealer. I don’t mean he made a living. I mean he traveled internationally and bought and sold art that was worth millions of dollars. He was at the peak of his professional career, but his professional success led him to neglect his marriage and his personal life tanked. His wife, Debbie a committed Christian, remained committed to Ron, but he went outside the marriage and had an affair with another woman.
We learn early in the movie of his infidelity and we quickly see Debbie’s generous and forgiving spirit. She picked up the phone and called his mistress and basically said, “I don’t blame you, and I forgive you.” She hung up the phone and told her husband she forgave him as well. She then said, “Choose her or me.” Ron chose his wife and chose to do the work it would take to breathe new life into their relationship.
The power of that one act of forgiveness set into motion a series of events that has led to sweeping transformation. Over 90 million dollars has been raised to help feed the homeless, assist the homeless in getting off the streets, getting on their feet, and in many cases, re-uniting with their families. Hundreds of thousands of people have been inspired to get involved in their local communities, to serve in shelters and to supply the homeless with life’s basic necessities-all from Debbie’s willingness to forgive Ron. Had she not forgiven him, he would have left her. Her forgiveness created an opportunity for Ron to stay. Their partnership in working together in a mission to serve the homeless opened the door for Ron to meet someone that Debby had seen in a dream which I’ll get to in a few minutes.
Debbie’s forgiveness not only paved the way for marital restoration, but it opened Ron’s eyes to a bigger purpose for his life than his work, his notoriety and his material possessions. It opened his eyes to people in need. It opened his eyes to people who were different from him, who at the core, were just like him, hence the title, “Same Kind of Different as Me.” Forgiveness became the force that moved Ron to look outside of himself, to look outside of his needs and desires.
Forgiveness is powerful. Forgiveness transforms the pain and anger of the person who has been hurt into peace and healing. Healing won’t come to a hurt person without them choosing to forgive. But forgiveness is for more than just the person who was hurt. It becomes a power for the person who receives it as well. When we are un-forgiven we are tied to and labeled by what we have done. When Ron was forgiven, he was released from the penalty of what he had done. The penalty for what he had done should have been that Debbie sent him packing. There is a biblical out for people in a marriage when unfaithfulness occurs, but God gave Debbie the grace to be able to extend forgiveness to Ron which freed him from the consequence of the marriage having to be over. She could have also forgiven him but asked him to go. She would have been within her biblical right, but she gave him the choice to stay or to go, and he chose to stay. Forgiveness opened the door for Ron to explore a better relationship with his wife which took him down the road of self-evaluation and total transformation.
Forgiveness is powerful because Forgiveness is biblical and God-like. God’s activities have weight, power, and authority.
“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13).
As the Lord forgave you. That is power-packed. That is worthy of the pause button. That deserves some reflection. What does that mean, “As the Lord forgave you?” On Wednesday night God had me teaching on how we were created in the image of God, male and female. We bear the image of God, and the verses that explain what that means are encased in Genesis 1:26-28. You can look them up later, but in those three verses we read that the image of God enables people to have dominion, to reign, to have authority and the image of God enables people to reproduce, not just in the physical sense that people have children, but spiritually speaking, they can make disciples of Jesus by helping other people begin a right relationship with God and they can live a fruitful life. In other words, the image of God enables people to rule and have authority and to be fruitful and productive, both physically and spiritually.
But sin has messed up our opportunity to do both. Sin mars the image of God in us which changes our potential. I mean, when you are in a right relationship with God and the Spirit of God dwells in you in and power, God enables you to do the natural with excellence and confidence and the supernatural beyond that. Sin compromises our ability to experience the power of God moving through us.
Sin has also skewed what it means to live with control, power and authority. Sin has twisted and even perverted what fruitfulness and a productive life look like. So, because of sin, we can’t be who we were meant to be. We can’t exert the holy image of God in this life in the way God intends. We can’t occupy the places we were meant to with confidence and authority, we can’t produce the kind of fruit in our lives that God desires because the image of God is now tainted.
But God, who is rich in love and mercy, but God who is quick and generous to forgive, makes it possible for the image of God to be restored in us, enabling us to once again be who He created us to be through the power of forgiveness. And we are to forgive people AS THE LORD has forgiven us. Where sin takes life from people, forgiveness restores life to people. Where sin labels people by their sinful behavior, forgiveness frees people to become new, different, to become like Jesus. Where sin alters people’s potential and trajectory, forgiveness restores opportunities and life and puts people back on a path that is full of joy, praise and victory.
Ron’s adulterous behavior changed the intentions God had for Ron and Debbie as a couple. His obsession with wealth and his sinful behavior took him down a different path than the one God had for him, but because Debbie willingly forgave, that act of forgiveness became the gift through which Ron was able to be restored to her which put him back on the path to becoming the man God wanted him to become. Had they split up, he wouldn’t have worked in the homeless shelter. Had he not worked in the homeless shelter, he wouldn’t have met Denver. Had he not met Denver, he wouldn’t have had so many rough edges knocked off of him which was the result of their friendship and had they not become friends who became as close as brothers (Ron’s words) they wouldn’t have built a partnership that has taken them all over the country to speak to people about the transforming power of forgiveness and friendship and enabled them to raise over 90 million dollars to help the homeless.
Francis Frangipane said this:
“Forgiveness is the very spirit of heaven removing the hiding places of demonic activity from the caverns of the human soul. It is every wrong made right and every evil made void. The power released in forgiveness is actually a mighty weapon in the war to save our cities.” – Francis Frangipane
WHAT IF you can be the starting block for someone’s personal and spiritual transformation through the generosity of forgiveness? What if that person’s transformation leads to the transformation of hundreds and thousands more lives? Forgiveness is so powerful that its ripple effect is exponential.
Debbie Moore, Ron’s wife, developed cancer and was transformed into Heaven. Her deep faith in the Lord Jesus, seen in her tireless love and service for others as she lived, was fanned into flames by her husband and Denver Moore who continued to carry out her mission.
Now, on to the power of friendship. Denver Moore was a feared street warrior, hardened during his 22 years of living on the streets of Fort Worth, TX. (Homeless for 22 years!) He was the baseball bat-packing alpha male of the homeless when Ron Hall befriended him in 1998. (Denver was known for beating people and things with his baseball bat!) He had so much anger.
What was the reason for this unlikely friendship? It goes back to Debbie again. She had a dream, a prophetic dream. God spoke to her in a supernatural way through her dream. In her dream, she saw a man she had never met. She saw Denver Moore, the homeless, angry man. God told her he was wise and that he could change the city. A few weeks later, while serving in the city mission, Debbie looked up and there he was. She told her husband to go talk to him. It wasn’t an instant warm and fuzzy friendship, but Ron persisted for five months until Denver’s heart finally softened. (Can we all just agree that to be shown in a dream who a person is that you have never met and to meet him a few weeks later is a miracle? I believe God speaks to those who are willing to obey Him and be used of Him.)
Denver was born in rural Louisiana. He great up with an aunt and uncle on what was basically a plantation. He never attended school and worked for credit he used to buy necessities at a company store. He had a lot of reasons to be angry. As a teenager, he was roped and dragged by the KKK for helping a white woman change a flat tire. In that moment, Denver vowed he would never trust a white person or speak to another white woman.
In 1960, Denver hopped a freight train to Fort Worth where he lived for a few months before he went to Los Angeles. Several years later, he went back to Louisiana where he was convicted of armed robbery in 1966. He spent ten years in prison and then returned to Forth Worth.
In 1998, while Ron and Debbie were preparing to serve a meal at the mission, a fight broke out involving Denver and he left the chapel service. In that moment, Debbie identified “the man of her dreams.” The angry man who was tossing people and tables and destroying things with a baseball bat at the Mission was the wise, homeless man who could change the city. She told Ron to start reaching out to him. Five months later, Denver Moore was the best friend Ron Hall had ever had. Denver became like family to the Halls, staying by their side all through Debbie’s illness and gave a eulogy at her funeral.
Denver and Ron made more than 400 appearances together in 250 cities to raise money and awareness for the plight of the homeless. They built shelters and expanded many inner-city missions. Denver went from being homeless to meeting presidents and being named the Philanthropist of the Year in 2006 in Fort Worth, TX. He and Ron went on to write the New York Times best-seller, “Same Kind of Different as Me” which later became the movie. The power of friendship!
Yet it was Ron Hall, the wealthy art dealer, who says his life was the one radically changed because of his friendship with Denver. Watch this:
Ron Moore was changed because he was able to receive wisdom from a homeless man. How often do we write those kind of people off? How often do we shy away from people we perceive are different from us? What might God want to teach us by helping us develop an unlikely friendship? Both men discovered who God intended them to be inside of their friendship with each other.
Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” As we allow ourselves to become known by other people, we become the beneficiaries of their wisdom, encouragement, support, and prayers. Denver truly had a prophetic gift from the Lord. He prophesied to Ron that something bad was going to happen to Debbie and three days later she was diagnosed with stage-four cancer. God used Denver to help Ron prepare for the most difficult time in he and Debbie’s life. Denver needed a friend like Ron to help him learn to trust people again and to tear down the walls he had built against not only white people, but all people for so many years. Through their friendship, he learned to put down his anger once and for all.
What might we be missing out on by only pursuing friendships with people who are just like us? Ron was intentional about getting to know Denver. It was work. Denver was skeptical. He even said to Ron, “You wanna be my friend? I’m going to have to think about that.” We’re skeptical aren’t we? When someone reaches out in friendship it is easy to put up walls, to question someone’s motives, to wonder what they want from us.
Jesus was our amazing example when it came to His pursuit of people from all different walks of life. Jesus befriended tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners. He had late-night talks with religious leaders who were trying to find their way, and He intentionally engaged the poor. He broke social norms by engaging women in conversation and even by welcoming them to travel in the company of disciples. He even welcomed conversations and encounters with children. It didn’t matter their race or background, Jesus was a friend to everyone.
I recently met Julia Young, founder of True Name, a ministry that ministers to the homeless in Huntington and a ministry that seeks to befriend women in strip clubs between Huntington and Charleston. They go into the clubs once a month, not with Bibles, tracts, and a sermon, but with food, gifts, and an offer of friendship, and after extending themselves as friends to these women, some of these ladies who are different from them, ask about Jesus and ask for help to leave that kind of life. The power of friendship!
Could it be one of the ways God could bring healing to our divided nation would be through our willingness to reach out in friendship to people who are different from us? God had obviously ordained Ron and Denver’s friendship and was at work to shape both of them in and through it. Let’s be willing to be open to relationships with all kinds of people because at the end of the day, they really are just the same kind of different as me and you.
Denver said it said eloquently when he said, ““I used to spend a lotta time worryin that I was different from other people, even from other homeless folks. Then, after I met Miss Debbie and Mr. Ron, I worried that I was so different from them that we wadn’t ever gon’ have no kind a’ future. But I found out everybody’s different – the same kind of different as me. We’re all just regular folks walkin down the road God done set in front of us. The truth about it is, whether we is rich or poor or somethin in between, this earth ain’t no final restin place. So in a way, we is all homeless – just workin our way toward home.”
Forgiveness and friendship are powerful tools that God wants to use in our lives and in the lives of those we touch to enable other people to work their way toward “home.”