Biblical Chivalry - 2010 - Phoenix, AZ
By Ryan Maguire
The need today for warrior-heroes parallels that of the Middle Ages. The torrents of hopelessness and loneliness run just as deep. The cry for help echoes from many mouths and many hearts. Regardless of culture or geography, there remains the deep need of every human being to behold a man like Christ. Every little boy needs to watch one. Every little girl needs to be protected by one. Every woman needs to be intimately acquainted with one. Every tradition needs to repeat the story of the proud father and mother admiring the son they brought into the world, and will launch like a flaming arrow to places far beyond their life’s span. And every man, born with an unquenchable burning within and a mission from God Himself, needs to become the warrior-hero he was created to be.
In his book “Orthodoxy,” G. K. Chesterton declares, “Paganism declared that virtue was in balance; Christianity declared it was in a conflict: the collision of two passions apparently opposite. Of course they were not really inconsistent; but they were such that it was hard to hold simultaneously. Let us follow for a moment the clue of the martyr and the suicide; and take the case of courage. No quality has ever so much addled the brains and tangled the definitions of merely rational sages. Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means strong desire to live, taking the readiness to die. ‘He that will lose his life, the same shall save it,’ is not a piece of mysticism for saints and heroes. It is a piece of everyday advice for sailors or mountaineers. It might be printed in an Alpine guide or a drill book. This paradox is the whole principle of courage, even of quite earthly or quite brutal courage. A man cut off by the sea may save his life if he will risk it on the precipice. He can only get away from death by continually stepping within an inch of it. A soldier surrounded by enemies, if he is to cut his way out, needs to combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying. He must not merely cling to life, for then he will be a coward, and will not escape. He must not merely wait for death, for then he will be a suicide, and will not escape. He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine. No philosopher, I fancy, has ever expressed this romantic riddle with adequate lucidity, and I certainly have not done so. But Christianity has done more: it has marked the limits of it in the awful graves of the suicide and the hero, showing the distance between him who dies for the sake of living and him who dies for the sake of dying. And it has held up ever since above the European lances the banner of the mystery of chivalry: the Christian courage, which is a disdain of death; not the Chinese courage, which is a disdain of life.”
It is evident that before one can act with chivalry, which is by all means a code of action, one must hold the clear understanding of the great conflicting passions of manhood; he must humble himself “at the feet of the grass” and take pride enough to subdue the earth, man’s God-given mission. He must impose a boundary of self-discipline for the love of true freedom. He must esteem life great enough to act with courage that would appear to esteem life too little. If we as men of God are to become warrior-heroes from God, we must turn understanding into “standing” (Eph 6:14). We must not only admire the warrior, we must ourselves wage war. We must care for the poor, and we must become “poor in spirit.” We must, like the great Christ and Savior we follow, represent “a huge and heroic sanity.” We must embody the controlled power of true meekness and, like Christ, wear garments of character “without seam, woven from the top in one piece” (Joh 19:23).
Let the men who read this be made warrior-heroes. Let the burning fire of God planted long ago within them be kindled with the expression of things told in so many fairy tales of youth. May a new age of biblical chivalry awaken the sleeping souls of the world to the Christ who came to earth long ago, yet lives today in all who will take seriously His absolute claim on our commitment. May the matchless glory of the One, true God be revealed by His grace through His servants because of the unique example and power of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“What then is chivalry? So strong a thing, and of such hardihood, and so costly in the learning, that a wicked man or low dare not undertake it …Whoso would enjoy high honor first must suitably display that he has well been schooled to such arts.”
–Biography of Sir William Marshal
You who long for the Knightly Order,
It is fitting you should lead a new life;
Devoutly keeping watch in prayer,
Fleeing from sin, pride and villainy;
The Church defending,
The widows and orphans succouring.
He should be humble of heart and always work,
And follow deeds of Chivalry;
Be loyal in war and travel greatly;
He should frequent tourneys and joust for his Lady Love;
He must keep honor with all,
So that he cannot be held to blame.
No cowardice should be found in his doings,
Above all, he should uphold the weak,
Thus should a Knight rule himself.”