Chivalry has its roots in European middle ages when knights lived by a code of conduct. The word comes from the French term chevalerie which means horse soldiery, but over time chivalry evolved into a term meaning an honorable code of conduct for all men, particularly regarding a man's treatment of a woman. Some consider chivalry unnecessary in our modern society, but it's been my pleasure to teach my three sons the importance of certain acts of chivalry because of the worth and dignity of a woman.
It would be worth studying Christian men who understand basic chivalry in public and any connection with how they spiritually, emotionally, and verbally treat women in their home and church. I have no statistical data, but I would be very surprised if those men who treat women with dignity and respect in public did not also treat women with proper dignity and respect behind closed doors. Obviously, anyone can be a hypocrite, but I find it difficult to mistreat my wife in private while always opening doors for her in public, taking my place next to the street as we walk on the sidewalk together, pulling out her chair for her, and gently placing my hand in the small of her back as we walk into a room.
I do not believe I have ever heard anyone use the term spiritual chivalry. Chivalry would be different from spiritual chivalry in that the former addresses physical actions, while the latter concerns itself with the inner attitude and heart of men toward women. Again, there's bound to be some connection between acts of chivalry and spiritual chivalry, but in order to help measure the heart and attitude of a man toward women, I've catalogued five measurements of spiritual chivalry for Christian men. The first three are toward women in general, and the last two are for that special woman in your life.
(1). Refuse to denigrate women in general with the spoken word, even in joking.
Christian pastors are the worst at violating this particular code of conduct. To practice spiritual chivalry, a Christian man will never use the female gender as the basis for a joke. Jokes that play on stereotypes (blond jokes, wife jokes, etc...) may cause some men to erupt in great laughter, but they will never cause a creased smile in the Christian man who respects women and admires their dignity and worth. Jokes about handicapped children never cause a parent of a handicapped child to laugh. Likewise, jokes about alleged female deficiencies will never cause any man who values women to laugh.
(2). Take interest in the opinions of women by listening, never interrupting.
Too many Christian men make the mistake of believing that a woman has nothing to teach a man, or that women should be silent in the presence of men. Sadly, some Christian men even try to claim that the silence of women in spiritual environments is ordained of God. On the contrary, any church or organization that actively seeks to silence women becomes a dysfunctional and diseased assembly. The full-orbed image of God is only seen in men and women and when some churches insist that men only should lead or teach, then you end up with a church or home with half the power, half the wisdom, half the creativity, and half the effectiveness. Spiritually chivalrous Christian men encourage the involvement and participation of women.
(3). Set physical boundaries with women that are stated and clear, never to be violated.
In a world that has no concept that sex is a symbol of the sacred, men sometimes make the tragic mistake of not establishing clear-cut physical boundaries with other women at the very beginning of a professional relationship. The spiritually chivalrous Christian man will establish appropriate physical boundaries around other women and will always abide by them. These boundaries are what I call "professional distance." This act of spiritual chivalry causes a sense of spiritual security within other women. For an understanding of what the lack of appropriate physical boundaries looks like in a Christian organization, read The Gothard Files: A Case for Disqualification. Here is a key principle for married men: A spiritually chivalrous man will be warm, intimate and open to other women in the presence of his wife, and physically and emotionally distant from other women when his wife is not present with him.
(4). Give specific verbal praise of the significant woman in your life and never criticize her publicly.
Some men have said to me in counseling, "I can't help criticizing my wife. She has been so cruel and mean to me, I feel myself filled with resentment and bitterness." I respond: "Isn't it a grand thing that Christ does not treat you in the manner you treat your wife?" 'Even while we were yet in our sin, Christ died for us.'" Hurt people hurt people. Read I Corinthians 13 Next time your wife begins to criticize you, rather than defend yourself, take a moment and ask "What is going on inside of my wife? What has scared her? Where is she hurt?" When you can begin to look at your wife with unselfish eyes, then you will be able to praise her regardless of her performance, and refrain from criticizing her regardless of her condition.
(5). Pray for the significant woman in your life, and as the Spirit leads, pray with her.
A spiritually chivalrous man will not see prayer as an act as much as he does an attitude. "To pray without ceasing" means that you have a continual awareness of Christ's presence in your life, at all times, and in all places. It's difficult for a Christian man who practices spiritual chivalry to ever mistreat his wife (or girlfriend if not married) because "Christ is right here with me." More importantly, when a spiritually chivalrous man understands Christ's continual presence with him, that man becomes sensitive to the needs and problems of the significant woman in his life. How can he not? The Creator of the universe loves him and is with him. The spiritually chivalrous man takes the matter of concern to the Lord immediately, and when appropriate, pauses with his wife (or girlfriend) and prays with her. Spiritually chivalrous men are sensitive to the needs the women in their lives.
Spiritually chivalrous men in their relationship with women...
My boys read my blog. Kade, Logan, Boe, you have done your dad proud in terms of your chivalry! Now I ask you to join with me to become the most spiritually chivalrous men we can be in order to honor Christ and the dignity and worth of the women He has placed in our lives!