Cultivating Chivalry

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I really like what it says in Wikipedia about chivalry. I’m sharing a part of it in order to lay a foundation for what I wanted to express in this post.

[Chivalry, or the chivalric code, is the traditional code of conduct associated with the medieval institution of knighthood. Chivalry arose from an idealized German custom.[1] It was originally conceived of as an aristocratic warrior code — the term derives from the French term for horseman — involving honor, gallantry, and individual training and service to others. Over time its meaning has been refined to emphasize more ideals such as knightly virtues, honor, courtly love, courtesy, and less martial aspects of the tradition.

The Knight’s Code of Chivalry was a moral system that stated all knights should protect others who can not protect themselves, such as widows, children, and elders. All knights needed to have the strength and skills to fight wars in the Middle Ages. Knights not only had to be strong but they were also extremely disciplined and were expected to use their power to protect the weak and defenseless. Knights vowed to be loyal, generous, and “noble bearing”. Knights were required to tell the truth at all times and always respect the honor of women. Knights not only vowed to protect the weak but also vowed to guard the honor of all fellow knights. They always had to obey those who were placed in authority and were never allowed to refuse a challenge from an equal. Knights lived by honor and for glory. Knights were to fear God and maintain His Church. Knights always kept their faith and never turned their back on a foe. Knights despised pecuniary reward. They persevered to the end in any enterprise begun.[2] Essentially, a chivalric knight is a Christian military soldier. “Certain law” stated a man must be a baptized Christian in order to become a knight.[1]]

Unfortunately, chivalry is another one of those words that have become archaic in our times. There are women now who are offended if a man opens a door for her. Being valiant or taking the higher road is now seen as weakness, and is made fun of. And virtue, like morality, is a chivalrous characteristic that is looked at quizzically and considered old fashioned or passé’.

There was a time when a chivalrous man was admired, looked up to and emulated. Many men now have been emasculated by our society, and no longer have a clue what true masculinity is, or how much it’s tied to being chivalrous.

A chivalrous man will overlook an offence, but won’t be bullied. He will not digress to another man’s folly, but he will also not be pushed around. A chivalrous man will defend his wife, his family and his country with his very life; but he will not let any of them define who he is as a man.

Chivalry is not about being a macho tough guy. Nor does a chivalrous man’s temperance and overlooking of offences make him a cowardice wimp who lets others walk all over him.

Being chivalrous is about knowing who you are as a person. It’s about serving an ideal that is bigger than you. It’s a demeanor or attitude that is strong and courageous, yet mixed with the ability to be gentle and kind. Being chivalrous is about holding yourself to a much higher standard than most people hold themselves to.

Even with all his faults and foibles, King David, and many of those who followed him, were chivalrous men. When you read through the Psalms, you can see the kind of man King David was. He was not only strong and passionate, but he could also be loving, kind and gentle. He was a man who could cry, as well as, laugh. He was also a man who wrote poetry, and yet was a mighty warrior in battle. He was a man’s man. He was the kind of man that most boys want and pretend to be, before they grow up and are corrupted by our society.

Look at characters like Marcus Aurelius in “Gladiator”, William Wallace in “Braveheart”, Lt. Col. Hal Moore in “We Were Soldiers” or Rob Roy in “Rob Roy”. They were all men who loved their families and countries deeply. They were men of great courage and passion, and men who had the capacity to be kind and gentle without seeming weak. They were brave and fierce warriors who risked it all to serve and fight for ideals greater than themselves. How do you and I measure up to these chivalrous characters?

Now, you might not be physically big or tough, but that doesn’t mean you can’t fight the good fight as a spiritual warrior of the Most High God. You might not be covered in muscle, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be strong in spirit and mind; which is where the true battle is taking place. You might not feel brave and fierce, but God sees the real you, a mighty man of courage. After all, he is our strength and our shield, and He will give us what we need for battle.

The battle we fight as Christians is not a physical battle, but a spiritual one. Our real enemies are not the ones we can see in front of us, but the invisible ones that do battle in a spiritual realm.

Ephesians 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but again, principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

It’s a good thing we have a General who is the most Chivalrous, fierce and powerful warrior that has ever, or will ever exist. Our General is Jesus Christ and He gives us spiritual armor and strength to do battle in, and He always has our back.

Now I would like to express something at this point that is extremely important. Our being chivalrous must not be a part time thing; or something we do only when life is going smoothly. Chivalry is a way of life no matter what is going on, good or bad.
Now, what happens when life throws us a curve ball, or when other people act in an unchivalrous manner toward us? Are we going to let their lack of chivalry cause us to be unchivalrous? Are we going to follow their lead downward?

Unfortunately, not allowing that to happen is often easier said than done. When in the heat of a situation, it can be very difficult not to lower ourselves to someone else’s bad behavior or standards. When we’re insulted, we want to insult back. When we’re hurt, we want to hurt back. When life gives us lemons, we want to rub the lemons in our wounds and feel sorry for ourselves.

There’s a nature within us that wars against God’s nature. Our human nature is selfish and self-serving, and only really cares for ourselves. God’s nature on the other hand is self-less, it’s about serving others, and loving unconditionally. Which nature we follow is up to us, the spirit or the flesh.

Look at Galatians 5: 16-18;
16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

The lusting of our flesh isn’t just about physical things either; it’s also about lusting after our own way, our own satisfaction, our own sense of fairness and justice. One cannot walk in the flesh and be chivalrous.

The characteristics of chivalry are something that is cultivated over time, and requires a lot of sacrifice and character to give oneself over to its ideals. If you lack the characteristics of chivalry, ask God to help you. He’s always there for us.

Now, like I said, it can be somewhat easy to be chivalrous when everything is smooth sailing, but when the storms of life come upon us, it can be a very different story. So, the next time someone rocks your boat, or a trial knocks you out of your boat, how will you respond?

Will it be with chivalry, or will human nature win the day?

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