Editor’s Note: The following is one of several interviews we are sharing from individuals in our church community who have helpful perspectives and vantage points into the issues of race and the gospel.
Morgan Steward came to Mizzou to play football in 2012. He graduated this past December with a degree in Organizational Communications (with a business minor), and is now preparing for the MBA program at Mizzou. Morgan has been part of our Christian Fellowship family for the past three years and regularly teaches one of our cfKidz classes.
- What experiences or roles have you had that have given you a unique vantage point into the issues of discrimination or racism?
As a child I developed early relationships with multicultural and diverse groups. I learned to interact with people of different backgrounds. I am an African American male and as a child I grew up and experienced diverse communities from the hood (where I was in the majority) to the suburbs (where I was a minority). In the hood there was systematic oppression and lack of opportunity or hope. In the more affluent area I was the minority and experienced direct forms of racism. This manifested in the form of low expectations, group exclusion, and encountering racist slurs.
My family served as a foster family as I was growing up. We brought eleven children at different times into our home. This experience brought vast amounts of differences in people and situations which taught me to understand individuals even better.
Many of my experiences with issues of race occurred in grade school, as I experienced many labels and preconceived ideas. One of my earliest encounters of racism was being excluded by some of my classmates from playing with them because I did not look like them. As I became older I remember many of my classmates seeking to learn my heart and true character, but a few calling me only an exception—“He’s a good black guy”—exclaiming that I am only different from the rest of my race, which I felt to be very offensive. But maybe this was my contribution to breaking down those barriers of racist stereotypes.
- How do you see God’s heart and the gospel as central to these issues?
Through the Gospel I see Christ’s love for us and his desire for us to love him. In loving Christ, we yearn to be more like him, and in being more like him we strive to love like he loves. Christ commands us to show love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). The Bible emphasizes all of these but deeply conveys the importance of love:
“‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:31). God says that if you do not have love you have nothing and that love is in the fundamental core of a Christian. In love God desires to have a relationship with us, and in reflection of his love and desire we should seek loving relationships. God’s love and his relationship with us is without prejudice and discrimination, and as God is after our hearts we should look to do the same with man. “For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). I believe that God’s big story and the love he displayed to us through his Son is our example. I have had many negative experiences because of my race, but because of God’s love and who he is, I FORGIVE and show the love that God has instilled in me. Through the power of God and his grace we are able to reflect his love.
- What do you see as some helpful practical steps toward change?
Some practical steps toward change would include:
- Recognizing that we are all biased and fall short in areas concerning race
- Intentionally seek a person’s heart as God does before making any assumptions about who they are—through seeking ones heart you are able to develop real relationships as Christ did.
- Recognize that everyone has their own sort of privilege and through them you should aim to help others that may not have your privilege.
- Learn to be critical of the messages that you may receive from things such as our media, peers, literatures, schools, government, societal systems, and history. This is because these outlets for information may form biases and prejudices that will hinder your godly perspective of others—by being critical of the messages you hear, you are able to seek to let your perception be shaped by GOD, not man.
- What is one particularly helpful thing you’ve learned in your own journey as you’ve wrestled with these issues that you could share with us?
I have learned the importance of exemplifying Christ’s love which results in relationships with anyone and everyone, no matter their past or appearance. This is easier said than done and what can be even more difficult is maintaining, or pursuing, a relationship after being treated unfairly or even being hurt. Forgiveness is a challenge, but it’s one of the biggest actions to display the attribute of love. Through the power of Christ, we are all able to love, forgive, and represent Him in a glorifying way.
Other Scriptures I’ve found helpful: Colossians 3:8-17; Romans 3:23-24; Titus 2:11-12; Luke 6:27; Luke 12:48.