Knighthood is a title conferred to someone for their service to a monarch or the Christian church, typically in a military capacity. From its origins in the twelfth century, the title of knight recognized the most noble and elite class of warrior. The word knight comes from an Old English word meaning servant. Associated with knighthood was an informal code of conduct known as chivalry.
Chivalry defined the perfect courtly Christian warrior—brave, honorable, courteous, good mannered and with a readiness to help the weak. Always championing the right and the good against injustice and evil. In a word, gentleman. A knight was to always be generous, upright, distinguished and trustworthy. While some early knights did indeed pillage and loot when fighting for their noblemen leaders, most knights were of religious orders, which included vows of poverty and chastity. The Knights Templar order fought during the Crusades in the 1100s. The Knights Hospitaller were formed in 1023 to protect the poor and the sick.
Can you recall anyone knightworthy that you know today? A person who, upon first meeting them, immediately displays trustworthiness? Someone who by their very demeanor, words and actions, conveys the thought, I am safe with this person?
Just as the knight’s armor has gone obsolete, so too in our age has the concept of chivalry. Feminism brought a new definition of equality to the sexes. No longer equal but with distinct roles, the argument became that a woman could and should do anything a man could do. The byproduct of women’s crossing into traditional male gender roles was a lessening, to a degree, of men’s respect for feminine qualities. The concepts of chivalry, while somewhat romanced in literature, haven’t found a home in modern culture.
In large part we are losing the ability to know how to treat one another honorably and courteously within the traditional gender roles. Also lacking is the principle that a man’s life is lived in service to noble pursuits, and service to the less fortunate. The knights of the middle ages were trusted men, defenders of their lord’s lands and people.
But chivalry should make a comeback. We should embrace the concept and act like gentlemen. We should pursue virtue and treat women with tender care, for a variety of reasons. You may think these ideas obvious, but they’re not. If they were, we would be quite a different society today. Why should the traditional and respectful role of the gentleman be pursued.
The Bible instructs it. 1 Peter 3:7 says, “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” And in Ephesians 5:33, “However, let each one of you love his wife as himself…”. Clearly Scripture teaches that Christian men are to treat their wives with respect, and it follows that single men also follow this mantra in advance of a martial relationship.
Listen to your wife. Give her the best portion of your time—not the remnants between work and other commitments. Be for her… for her happiness, her success, her God-given role, her use of her gifts and talents. Support not only her physical needs but her emotional needs. No other person in her life can show her chivalry as you can. Ephesians 5:25 raises the bar even higher: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” Your love of your wife is a sacrificial love, placing her above your own self-interest. It is simply what a gentleman would do.
“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” 1 Peter 3:7
The roles of man and woman depend on it. Despite what the movies and television depict as romance—instant sexual encounters among near-strangers that happen between commercial breaks—women are far less interested in physical chemistry than other traits. Psychology Today,when asking women what they wanted in a man, found that “traits of moral integrity” were top characteristics. “Women need men to show kindness, patience, understanding, empathy, and compassion… Emotional maturity is essential. It’s okay to have some childish fun when it’s appropriate, but it’s important for women and men to behave like grown-ups when it’s time to do so.”
Women want, in essence, a traditional man. One who takes responsibility, has goals for his life, and bring emotional and practical support into the relationship. A Pew Research survey found that 32% of young men still live at home with their parents. The video game generation has led to a significant percentage of men who are increasingly aimless. This is not attractive to women, and degrades both the role of the man and woman in society. Able young men leech off their parents, while women become more selective in relationships, finding it more difficult to connect with a man for a marriage where traditional roles are desired.
The culture needs it. The reality is, sexual assaults in the United States are at all-time highs, with 91% of the victims being women. The #metoo movement has exposed hundreds of so-called celebrities who made a lifestyle of physical and emotional abuse of women. Coupled with marriage rates and child-bearing rates in tremendous decline in our country, it’s clear that the culture of traditional male-female relationships has hit a road block. Some men are not trustworthy. Others are boys living in men’s bodies. Others are putting on high heels and pretending they are women.
Godly young men can lead the culture out of this malaise by restoring chivalrous behavior. The culture is literally waiting for a generation of men to act like men. Not self-absorbed, locker-room-talking men. No, we need the knights to resurface. The men who guard the sick and the poor. The men who fight for good. The men who treat others with honor and respect. The men who are honest, and trustworthy, and generous and upright.
A generation of such men will not be created through social media profiles or Fortnight tournaments. Rather they must be men of the Word and of the church. Just as the knights of religious orders, they must pursue God, and live selflessly and for the good of others. They must be honest and trustworthy. And if we speak of such men in the third person, we must also realize that each one of us, as a man, must first live this life as an example and instruction to others. So shall chivalry return. So shall the romantic legend of the knights of old be reborn in a godly generation of men today.