On a recent trip with my family, after our evening family devotion, my son asked me to tell him a story. I obliged his request, though with some hesitation because of my lack of imagination. Nonetheless, I inquired of him what he would like the story to be about. His answer was: a knight.
A story about a knight was somewhat of a surprising choice of character from him. We haven’t exposed him to much of medieval stories or Arthurian legends, so I found his request quite compelling. What was it he thought about knights? Why would he want a story about that particular trope?
Defining a Knight
Those questions got me to thinking about what we as men could learn from “knights.” I recalled a presentation that I had heard a few years ago about Christian Knights and the call for men to become and train young men to be “Knights.” (That presentation is embedded below). With that presentation in mind and with my son’s request to tell a story about knights, I offer some thoughts on why society still needs ‘Knights.’
In the presentation on “Christian Knights,” Dr. Biermann highlights a “Code of Chivalry” or “Code of Conduct” for the knights. There is a high degree of similarity of those qualities expected of a knight and the values expected of US Army Soldiers (Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, Personal Courage – see AJ’s piece on these). Thus there is an historic link found in the medieval times and our current times for those given the authority and responsibility to care for others. Indeed, there is a necessity, placed upon men in particular, to use that authority and carry out those responsibilities for the sake of others. In this regard, a “Knight” is a very helpful model for Christian men. So let’s consider some of those attributes more deeply from Dr. Biermann’s presentation.
Dr. Biermann grounds the characteristics of the “Christian Knight” in Titus 2. He draws them from the words particularly directed at the “elders” and “young men.” The descriptive words Paul gives to Titus about these two groups are:
- sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. (v. 2)
- be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8 and sound speech… (vv. 6-8)
Dr. Biermann expresses those characteristics for today’s men this way:
- Be Dignified – act worthy of respect
- Deny Your Self – be self-controlled, temperate
- Serve Others – beginning with your wife, family, and extending to the community
- Be an Example of Good Deeds
These characteristics are enough keep us men occupied until the day that we die —and perhaps that is exactly God’s design. There will never be a moment in our earthly lives that we accomplish all this perfectly. But that imperfection should not dissuade us from the need to life this way. Your family needs this; your congregation needs this; your community needs this. The challenge for us – as perhaps the most notable characteristic of knights from history and legend – is to possess the courage to live this way.
Becoming a Knight
CS Lewis wrote:
Since it is so likely that they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.~C.S. Lewis, Of Other Worlds, “On Three Ways of Writing for Children” (1966)
Lewis hits on a important concept for our day and time. There are cruel enemies – there is the Cruel Enemy, the devil who prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). But there is One who has overcome the devil – overcome evil -Jesus Christ. So also, not by their own strength or merit, the Saints who are in Christ have overcome that evil as well. The Saints who have died in Christ now “rest from their labors” (Rev 14:13) until the resurrection of all flesh. The Saints who are living on earth still must contend daily with that evil and Evil One (hence Jesus tells us to pray “Deliver us from evil [or the Evil One]”). That means we need to cultivate courage in ourselves and in our young men to resist the Evil One. This cultivation is a daring task – one for which the title “Knight” is appropriate.
The call to Knighthood is not a call of idleness, but of adventure. As the Knights of Arthurian lore -Percival, Lancelot, Gallahad – demonstrated bravery and wisdom in their legendary adventures, so we, no matter where we are in life, are called to demonstrate bravery and wisdom in this adventure. That bravery and wisdom, that whole quest, begins first with submission to the King – the Lord Jesus Christ.
The call to Knighthood, and for men to be Knights, begins with the One who has called you. The Lord Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, has called Christian men into this role. The Lord Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, will bring about His blessings when men step into that role and live it out for the sake of the neighbor. The Lord Jesus Christ will be with you through the adventure.
Living as a Knight
So what does this adventure look like practically? Let’s consider again Dr. Biermann’s characteristics of a “Christian Knight”
Strangely, the dignity that Christians seek is not from their own strength, courage, or wisdom, but instead is the dignity that is bestowed in humility before the Lord. To be dignified, to act worthy of respect, is to embrace the identity Christ has given to you as a forgiven, redeemed, saved sinner. Thus, to act worthy of respect is to act in a manner worthy of the Gospel you have received. What does that look like? Pray. Read the Word. Be in Church. Surround yourself with other dignified Christian men and be encouraged by and with them.
Deny Your Self
When recognizing all good things – including your own temperament, wisdom, courage, dignity – comes from Jesus Christ, it becomes all the more obvious to deny yourself. The apostle Paul puts it this way, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, ESV). Or as John the Baptizer says, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). The less “important” I am to myself, the more “important” I become to others. This is extremely important when considering the other gifts God has given to you to steward – your wife, your family, your congregation, your community.
Denying yourself takes care of you, but the command to serve others gives you an outlet for your efforts. Especially as men, God has endowed you with certain strengths and qualities to be used for the benefit of the neighbor. Even if you think you are lacking in those qualities, pray to the Lord to strengthen you in that. Serving others includes teaching and training others as well. The wisdom God has given to you, share that with others. The capabilities God has given to you, share that with others. There is always someone in need – so take those opportunities to use your gifts for those needs.
Be an Example of Good Deeds
This characteristic really ties together all the previous characteristics. As you act worthy of respect in your home, your church, and your community; as you deny yourself for the sake of the neighbor; as you serve your neighbor, you will be an example of good deeds. This will have the most impact on the people around you. These good deeds begin with the “good deed” of carrying out your faith. To put that another way, going to church, praying, reading the Bible, repenting and trusting the Gospel – those are examples of good deeds. The example you set in those is that what the Lord Jesus Christ says matters most in your life; the faith God has given you is the priority in your life; the Good News of forgiveness and life with God is the defining characteristic of you. That is the best example you can set. Necessarily from this trust in Christ, you will also carry out other good deeds – loving and caring for your wife and family; contributing to the flourishing of life in your community.
The Need for Knights
Society needs Knights like this. Society needs you to take up this noble quest. Society may not realize how valuable Knights like this are – that does not change the necessity of them. Knights will build their families and communities in accordance to God’s design, and God’s design is always the best for creation. After all, it is His Creation. Thus, the responsibility we have to step into this role is both challenging and rewarding. So let us embrace this responsibility; let us encourage one another in this; let us glorify our Lord who has called us to this noble task.
I ended up telling a story of a knight, named after my son, who protected a village from a dragon. While I was no Tolkien or Lewis in my descriptions or character work, the knight was brave and daring, and ultimately victorious over the menacing dragon. The hope was that my son will see the noble responsibility the knight had to the village. The grander hope is that he will recognize that noble calling he has as a child of God, as a knight of Christ. The grander hope is that he will embrace that calling with courage. So may we all.
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