Cathy and I went to the grocery store not long ago. We parked, and I got out of the car to open the door for her. As I took her hand, I heard a loud voice behind me blurt: “I don’t believe it!”
I turned around to see a woman with a flabbergasted face. “You opened the door for her! I didn’t think that happened anymore.”
I smiled. “It happens every day.” She walked off, shaking her head.
On another occasion several years ago, I was about to enter an office building and noticed through the glass doors a lady about to exit. I opened the door for her. This smartly dressed woman stopped and gave me a severe look. Her words surprised me.
“Don’t open the door for me just because I’m a woman,” she said. My response was quick but kind.
“Sure,” I said. “So I’ll just do it because I’m a gentleman.” She pushed the opposite door open for herself and left without a word.
Chivalry—It’s More than Opening Doors
The term chivalry refers to:
The ethical code of the knight prevalent in Medieval Europe, having such primary virtues as mercy towards the poor and oppressed, humility, honor, sacrifice, fear of God, faithfulness, courage and utmost graciousness and courtesy to ladies.
Today “chivalry” usually refers to the last part of that definition. But it’s helpful to take the wider view, beginning with the code of ethics that included a “fear of God.”
The motive behind opening doors is more important than the act itself. After all, we’ve all seen scoundrels who appear gentlemanly only in order to manipulate a lady.
With that in mind, true chivalry is rooted in character—whether or not the courtesy is received. In fact, if we read the definition of “chivalry” again (above), one person stands out as the utmost of all chivalrous people.
A Model of Chivalry
The model of chivalry in scripture usually attaches itself to husbands loving their wives. But the principle behind the commands is rooted in the sexes. Peter said it best:
Husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life. —1 Peter 3:7
“Since she is a woman,” shows the principle of chivalry to women as more than courtesy—but servanthood based on the intrinsic value of a woman.
- The honor a woman deserves comes from the fact that she is a fellow heir—an equal to a man both in salvation and in bearing the image of God (Gen. 1:27; 5:2).
- This is the type of character that many men have displayed throughout history—as many did on the Titanic—giving up a chance to be saved in order to save women and children.
Husbands should take this up a notch—giving up their lives daily in ways far more sacrificial than opening doors. And the motive behind it all? It’s what Jesus did (Eph. 5:22-33).
Why True Chivalry Will Never Be Passé
Whatever chivalry means today, I believe true chivalry is neither chauvinistic nor hypocritical—but servanthood.
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