The Code of Chivalry is the guideline knights and other members of the Order of Christian Knights follow when going about their daily lives. The idea of the Code of Chivalry comes from the height of the era of knighthood. The Code is part guide for life and part poetry. It should be interpreted as a whole, but can be applied in parts. It is a beautiful work of art that is inspired by the Scriptures and by the history of the institution of knighthood.
The word chivalry comes from the Old French word "chevalerie," which roughly translates as "horsemanship." In England, mounted bodyguards were called "cniht" in Old English, which means "servant." As the institutions of chivalry and knighthood developed, the former grew to mean everything the latter was supposed to be. Cavalry in the middle ages was extremely expensive, and thus restricted to the affluent. Thus, chivalry evolved to become horsemanship, military knowledge and skills, courtesy, and even courtly love. Chivalry was more of an idea than an explicit code during the middle ages, and every feudal lord had his own idea about how his knights should practice the arts of chivalry. Some knights wrote books about what they believed it meant to act in accordance with chivalry, but the concept was a philosophy, not a rule.
The Code of Chivalry used by the Order of Christian Knights was penned by Sir Anthony Shanander early in his studies of the chivalric arts, and is influenced by the Scriptures and the writings of the ancient knightly masters. The first word of each line of the Code of Chivalry is called a Virtue and the last word of each line is called a Temperance. Each Virtue is an ideal that all knights should strive to uphold, while the Temperances serve as reminders to the followers of the Code that Virtue practiced in the extreme becomes Vice.
By its very nature, the Code of Chivalry recognizes that no man, no knight, and no Christian is perfect. Instead, the application of the Code is a constant struggle against the flesh and is a battle that must be fought with the supernatural help that comes from God.
Today, chivalry itself might be defined as "the standards of behavior set by one's lord, especially for a knight," and the word knight effectively means "a Christian soldier." With Christ as our Lord, chivalry is the standards Jesus sets for His people, especially for the knights who serve as the guardians of His church.
Faith is the foundation for the Christian life. Faith is God's gift of trust, confidence, and assurance in Him and in the sacrifice Jesus made for mankind on the cross. The Biblical definition of faith is "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." - Hebrews 11:1 ESV. God gives the Christian faith so that he may withstand the assaults of the enemy. A Christian knight must have faith in God and in His Word. A knight must trust in the Code of Chivalry as a guide by which to live, and in the rule of the Order he follows. A knight must have a measure of faith in his masters as authorities instituted by God and in his companions as brothers in Christ. A knight must himself try to be faithful in all that he does and he should revere truth and commit himself to acting with honor and integrity.
But the Scripture also says "... Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind." - Romans 14:5 ESV. God gave us free will for a reason. He gave us the ability to choose what we believe because free will is what makes our faith valid. God does not condemn us for asking sincere questions to deepen our understanding of His principles. There are certainly times when strict and immediate obedience is necessary without full understanding, but a knight should grapple with the greater questions of life early enough and often enough that when those trials come, He can plunge headlong into serving the LORD.
One of the reasons Orders of Chivalry were founded in the middle ages was to seek justice, and that historic duty is very much at the core of what knights of this Order do every day. "For I the LORD love justice; I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them." - Isaiah 61:8. Justice is one of God's core traits, and when a knight models himself after the LORD he finds himself loving justice too. A knight must be fair. He must never cheat anyone, nor tolerate cheating in his presence. A knight's actions should be to seek the LORD's justice in daily life and to right the wrongs committed by the enemy whenever he is able. A knight should defend the rights of the weak and oppressed. He should protect women, and children, and cripples. A knight should obey the law of men when they are right. "Submit yourselves for the LORD's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by Him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right." - 1 Peter 2:13 ESV.
But a knight must also recognize that the laws of man do not always mean justice, and when the law of man contradicts the law of God, he must answer with the words of Peter and John, "... Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge." - Acts 4:19. There may come a time when the law of man is not compatible with the law of God, and a knight is honor bound to follow the law of God to the best of His ability.
Love is the greatest of all virtues, because it gives meaning to all the others. "So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love." - 1 Corinthians 13:13 ESV. Without love, our faith would be in vain because sin would condemn mankind to eternal damnation. Without love, justice serves no greater glory. Without love, service is slavery. Without love, courage is brutish and self-serving. A knight must love the LORD Jesus Christ. He must love his family. A knight must love the people around him, especially those who need his help the most.
A knight should pursue the visual arts and the arts of dance and of music, because they gentle his spirit and remind him of the value of human life. The beauty of God's creation is that despite the fall of man and the permeation of sin in human hearts, the image of God can still be revealed in the spirit of mortal and fallen people. Just as God created the Heavens and the Earth, man has been blessed with the creative capacity to build cities and homes. Just as God engineered all that lives and breathes, man has been blessed with the ability to engineer the wheel. Just as God gave men voices to sing, ears to hear, and feet to dance, men built instruments and organized orchestras with which to praise Him. To love is man's true purpose, and a knight must love to the fullest.
But there is a darkness in this world that a knight must remember, because he is called to wage war against the Devil and his army of fallen angels. The spirit realm rages, and a knight must keep his spirit ready. He must take the words of Paul to heart:
"Finally, be strong in the LORD and in the strength of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the Devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the Evil One; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God..." Ephesians 6:10-17 ESV.
A knight must pray diligently for strength in the spiritual battles he will face. He must study the Scriptures diligently so that he can train his conscience to remind him of the Will of God.
A knight also recognizes that not every battle he faces will be spiritual. There are many people who would seek to do real physical harm to the innocent, and a knight cannot stand by and watch it happen because his love for the innocent is too great. A knight must be familiar with the Just War Theory, so that when the time comes for physical battle he does not dishonor himself with wrongdoing. A knight must be familiar with the arts of wars, including tactical warfare (combat including grappling, knife and sword fighting, archery, and firearms and command over troops in the heat of battle), operational warfare (including command over military operations in a specific region or theater), and strategic (including command over military operations on a global scale.
The English word for knight originally meant "servant," and evolved to the role of the "servant bodyguard." Serving a higher lord or cause is the entire reason for the existence of knighthood. Knighthood developed as an institution of European Christendom because of this inherent quality of servant leadership found in chivalry. The Scripture says, "Only fear the LORD and serve Him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things He has done for you." - 1 Samuel 12:24. Paul writes, "For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." - Galatians 5:13 ESV. Service is the outward expression of love. James writes "If a brother or a sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?" - James 2:15-16.
Knights must serve the LORD to the best of their ability, and the love that they have for their fellow man compels them to serve people, too. The institution of knighthood is also inherently military. Thus, the successful operation of an Order of Chivalry depends on a solid rank structure and strict obedience to the chain of command. Furthermore, knights errant who do not serve in a specific Order should submit themselves to the authority of the church where they serve and are fed. "Submit yourselves for the LORD's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by Him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right." - 1 Peter 2:13 ESV.
This line of the Code of Chivalry reminds junior knights that they can trust their superiors to issue orders that are consistent with the Word of God and the principals of chivalry. The line also reminds senior knights to take great care in issuing orders, that they are acceptable in the sight of God. It is important for knights at all levels to remember that their duty is to serve the Kingdom of Heaven, and that means serving fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. It also means urgent evangelism because of the love Christians have for the lost and broken hearted.
Courage is the foundation for the exercise of the virtues of chivalry. Without courage, a knight cannot brave the dangers of the world to proclaim the gospel and protect his brothers and sisters in Christ. The life of a Christian is a difficult one. Jesus promised His followers that, "If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you." - John 15:18-19. Many have been martyred because of their peaceful faith in the LORD Jesus Christ, and there is an ever present danger that this will become a reality for His followers again. He said, "Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life." - John 12:25. A knight must be willing to throw himself into his Christian service, no matter what the personal cost may be. Sometimes the cost may be an awkward situation. Other times it may be the loss of a friendship. And sometimes Christian courage means death. Knights are willing to go where others cannot go to serve the LORD and protect His people. Knights are willing to go where others simply will not go to serve the LORD and protect His people.
A knight need not be without fear. Fear keeps a knight's senses sharp. They keep him alert to potential danger, and they protect him from brash decisions and the pursuit of adrenaline rush. A courageous heart does not lack fear, it overcomes fear. It is a curious blend of courage and fear that saves the life of a warrior surrounded by his enemies. Should he surrender, he will surely be put to death, but he cannot hope for freedom unless he risks his safety by fighting.
Furthermore, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight." - Proverbs 9:10. It is good and right that a knight should fear the LORD, because man is not worthy to be in His presence. A knight, nor a Christian, should ever forget the gravity of God's holiness. That fear reminds man to seek Him in everything he does and to pursue holiness to the best of his ability.
Obedience - Poverty - Chastity
The Vows of Knighthood are taken by an individual during their Knighthood Ceremony. Generally, an aspirant dresses in all white clothing, which symbolizes purity.
He is summoned before a dubbing knight, who instructs him to kneel, a symbol of humility. As the knight aspirant kneels, he offers a sheathed sword to the dubbing knight, a symbol of fidelity to the ideals of chivalry. The dubbing knight takes the sword and draws the blade, a symbol of authority.
The dubbing knight asks the aspirant, "Do you know and understand the Vow of Obedience?" to which the aspirant responds, "I do." The dubbing knight then asks, "Do you take the Vow of Obedience?" and the aspirant responds, "I take the Vow of Obedience." The two repeat these words for the Vows of Poverty and Chastity.
The dubbing knight then places the flat of the sword on the aspirant's right shoulder and says, "Then by the grace of God," he moves the sword to the left shoulder, "I hereby dub you," he moves the sword back to the right shoulder, "Sir" followed by the individuals full name. The dubbing knight then says, "Rise, and fulfill your vows as a Knight of the Order." Female aspirants, rather than receiving the accolade by way of sword blows on the shoulders, are given a pin on the left side of the collar. Another dame, or a husband, usually helps with this part of the ceremony.
From this point onward, the individual becomes a knight of the Order. Fellow knights help the new knight to live out his vows and uphold the Code of Chivalry. Failure to live up to ones Vows can result in counseling from a brother . Further failure may result in counseling from several brothers. Continuing to fail the Vows may be met with counseling from commanders within the Order or from the local church. Knights who continue to reject their Vows may be expelled from the Order of Christian Knights and commanded to reverse their heraldic achievement.
The Vow of Obedience
The first of the Vows, a knight takes an oath to do his best to follow God's commands found in the Bible, to uphold the Code of Chivalry, and follow the orders of those who have legitimate authority over him. Knights who find this Vow difficult may be counseled to perform missions in which they can practice obedience to authority.
The Vow of Poverty
The second Vow, a knight must live frugally and within his means. He must be a good steward of the resources God has given him. He should not spend money in vain, he should be generous to the needy. He should save for the future and provide himself with the tools and equipment he needs to serve God. A knight may have nice possessions, but he must take care of them and he must not covet them. A knight who struggles with this Vow may be counseled to give up possessions that cause them to stumble.
The Vow of Chastity
The third Vow, a knight must do his best to live pure and chaste outside of marriage. Jesus said that even lust was adultery, so a knight should do his best to keep his mind holy as well. Knights may marry, and are encouraged to have satisfying and fulfilling sexual relationships with their spouse. Knights who struggle with this Vow may be counseled to spend time alone or with members of their own gender, give up electronic communication, or even marry to allow an acceptable outlet for their desires.