We hear all the time that “Chivalry is dead.”
But what do we even mean by “chivalry?”
Are there Christian roots to Chivalry that men of the church should care about reviving?
Or is it an outdated term of no use to us today?
First, where does the chivalric code even come from?
The answer is it comes from a lot of places. It is important to understand that there was never a central code of chivalry in the middle ages.
There were several codes written throughout literature, from the Arthurian code to the chivalric code of love to the code which we will be addressing here from the French epic, the Song of Roland.
It’s no mistake that we often associate chivalry with the honor code of knights of the Middle Ages.
And the root of the word knight gives us our first insight into the connection of chivalry to Christian masculinity.
Contrary to popular belief, the word knight was not an umbrella term in Europe. The only nation to use the word regarding soldiers of nobility was England, and they got the word from the Germans, who called their soldiers knechts.
This is where it becomes important because the German word knecht refers to the nature of the warrior. The word knecht means bondservant, which, if you will recall, is what Paul referred to Christians as in several of his epistles.
This connection, then, shows us why chivalry is so important for the Christian life. The Knight, as a Christian, was called to servant leadership.
The twelfth-century French epic, The Song of Roland, chronicles the events leading up to and including the battle of Roncevaux pass in AD 778, during which the epic’s hero, Count Roland, gives his life in service to his liege, the emperor Charlemagne.
In the code recording in this epic, a knight is sworn to:
“Fear God and maintain His Church
Serve the liege lord in valour and faith
protect the weak and defenceless
give succor to widows and orphans
refrain from wanton giving of offence
live by honour and for glory
despise pecuniary reward
fight for the welfare of all
obey those placed in authority
guard the honour of fellow knights
eschew unfairness, meanness, and deceit
keep the faith
speak the truth at all times
persevere to the end in any enterprise begun
respect the honour of women
never refuse a challenge from an equal
never turn the back upon a foe.”
It is clear here that the code is antiquated in its language. After all, who says pecuniary anymore? Perhaps a rewritten code can help us better understand the meaning in the Song of Roland:
A man is sworn to:
Fear God and serve His kingdom
serve those to whom they have obligation
protect the weak and defenseless
give aid to widows and orphans
live in peace with all men
live for honor and glory
serve without expectation of financial reward
seek to serve those of lower fortune
obey those placed in authority
guard the honor of your brothers in Christ
always be friendly and treat everyone fairly without dishonesty
keep the faith
remain honest under all circumstances
finish what you start
always be courageous in the face of trials
be on guard against the enemy.
All of these things seem to make sense from a modern perspective.
The Christian life is meant to be impossible for people to follow. Hence our neverending need for the grace of God. Our model is Christ, who said of himself, “the son of man has not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28 ESV).
As Christians, we are to model Christ in His life, as men, we are to model Christ in every aspect of His person. Everything that defined Christ as a person is a model for how a man should be in society. Looking back at the code, we can see the nature of Christ’s person outlined.
Christ was God-fearing, in that He had great respect for His Father, and Christ also had great respect for the kingdom. He showed this in the gospel of John when He said, “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just because I seek not my own will, but the will of him who sent me” (John 5:30, ESV).
Christ never lost faith in God and was an example of the power of God. Even when He was pushed to the literal edge, having blood pour out in his sweat, He remained faithful saying, “My father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, Your will be done” (Matt 26:42, ESV).
Christ honored everyone, even those undeserving of honor in the eyes of society. “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7, ESV).
As men, we need to humble ourselves enough that we can give honor to everyone, but not to the point of degrading ourselves. There is a balance we must strike between valuing the self and valuing others. Put others first, but not at the cost of your own self-respect.
Our role as men is the provider that requires a great deal of humility on our part. As men, we should be on the frontlines of every charity work, every mission work, and every public service event.
We have listened too long to culture speaking emasculation into our lives, and so have become passive. We have come to believe the lie that masculinity is toxic, oppressive, and outdated. We, the image-bearers of the Lion of Judah, have been tamed.
Christ, in his life on earth, not only honored but also defended the honor of women. Remember the story of Mary Magdalene, when Jesus rebuked the men about to stone her. He saw their hypocrisy. Where was the man? If they found Mary in adultery, then there had to be someone else there that they let go.
Scripture also says “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”
There are people today who want an excuse to be offended. It gives them validation for a position they know is wrong. We can do nothing for these people. For those who are genuine, however, we should avoid offending. The exception is if avoiding offense means avoiding following Christ. Christ always comes first.
“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful even as your father is merciful” (Luke 6:35, ESV).
Christ knew what reward he would receive from those he served, a scourging and a cross. Yet he served them without hesitation.
How many of the people Jesus healed were in the crowd screaming for him to be crucified? Still, he would serve them all again. That is selfless love.
What excuse, then, do we have as men to be reclusive and avoidant of those we are called to serve? “But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44, ESV).
If we are called to love even our enemies, why do we avoid those who have done us no wrong? How many people who seek the truth of God have been turned away because they don’t fit our mold?
God shows no favor to one person over another. Neither should we. Christ had a standard, and he always stuck to that standard when dealing with people. Thus, He could be trusted. This speaks more to us as Christians than as men, but it is still an important thing to understand.
Jesus called Satan the father of lies. We should not be given easily to acts of dishonesty. As Christian men of honor, we should realize that honesty is paramount. If we are known to be dishonest, we are untrustworthy.
As image-bearers of Christ, our dishonesty casts that same light on God. When we lie or cheat, we not only defame ourselves, but we defame manhood, Christianity, and God.
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24, ESV).
Even for the most tedious work, we should seek to serve to our fullest. Even those we do not enjoy serving, when serving, serve to the fullest. And we should finish what we start.
Likely the most important aspect of Masculine Christianity is courage.
Christian Masculinity is the natural strength of a man imbued with the empowering grace of God, and as men, we are called to a special standard of courage. We are the defenders of the family. Christians, in general, are called to be courageous, but men of God are called to a special standard of courage.
Take this lesson to heart: as men, we are called to be bold and courageous leaders within the church. God has called us and empowered us to do great things for his kingdom, to defend our honor, and defend the honor of those around us.
Share this article with your friends and spread the word for men to rise up and take up the call which God has given them, and pray for God to raise up men to fight this fight of our age.