In one of the Gileskirk lectures I recently listened to, Dr. George Grant addressed “the chivalric code” and its impact on the soul of Christian civilization – particularly in our understanding of manners and the conduct of war. And speaking of the former…
When somebody talks about manners, what usually pops into your head? Speaking for myself: remember to say please and thank you, open doors for the ladies, give a firm handshake, don’t belch at the table, etc. The basics, you might say.
But manners are so much more than that. Manners are a way of life. Manners, as Dr. Grant so beautifully defines them, “are those visible cues we give to others that they have worth.”
In today’s world, we have this twisted idea that manners are designed to make us look good. “Behave properly or you’ll embarrass yourself and Miss Matty Jenkyns won’t invite you over for tea anymore.” But manners rooted in the chivalric code – and by extension, in Scripture – serve a different purpose altogether. They are fundamentally others-oriented, a working out of the Second Great Commandment: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Matt. 22:39) This is virtue in action.
The Christian man is not courteous towards a woman because he is concerned about his public image. He is courteous to her because he recognizes and affirms her value, her worth; the fact that she is made in God’s image; the fact that she is to be respected and honored; the fact that she carries gifts from the hand of God, and that these should be cherished and treasured.
It doesn’t get much more counter-cultural than that.
“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Cor. 13:4-7)