True Gentlemen

By Chris Dupre

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Editor's note: In the days that this article was written, Fort Valley State University student Donnell Phelps was murdered as he went to the aid of three women being harrassed and groped by a man with a knife. Our prayers go out to Donnell's friends and the family that raised such a gentleman.
What is a gentleman? Given today's significant cultural shifts — many of which being at the hands of new government regulations and mandates, seemingly in tandem with a relentless pop culture push — traditional roles and attitudes toward men and women are being challenged in ways we have not seen throughout history. A main focus has been, of course, in how men treat women. Until recently, so it would appear, boys and young men have been widely taught to be gentle with females, to treat them with care and deference. With the post-modern struggle to erase any perceived differences between men and women, such attitudes are often looked upon with hostility and as an affront to women's dignity and strength. In short, gentlemen are being perceived — and treated — as sexist.

What should a Christian man's response be to these shifting viewpoints? Where does he draw and straddle the line in his dealings with like-minded Christian women and women outside the faith, many of whom may be unreceptive to overtures of gentlemanly behavior?

Pivotal to this issue is the fact that how we treat anyone is determined by our relationship with God. First, we know through biblical teaching that without faith in Jesus Christ, no one can have a relationship with God (John 3:16, Romans 5). Once the connection is established, a true faith will prompt a believer to live in a way that is pleasing to God. That desire, although imperfect, comes naturally to a believer (James 2:14-26). His life will bear out evidences that his faith is genuine. Further, a mature Christian's life will have as its hallmark the fruit of God's Spirit that lives within him. This fruit is characterized as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:21, 22). Love is mentioned first in the list because it is foundational to everything we do in life. We see this elsewhere in the Bible. Jesus imparted to us the two greatest commandments. In short, love God, and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:36-40). Therefore, a gentleman will love God first, as the basis for every human relationship he has.

So, what is a gentleman, anyway? Merriam-Webster's definition is "a man who treats other people in a proper and polite way." That is, to treat people in a way that is appropriate for the situation. For instance, if a person is uncomfortable or embarrassed about the way he or she appears, a gentleman would make an effort to ensure that person is accepted and welcomed. If that same person accomplished something great, a gentleman would offer enthusiastic acknowledgement and congratulations.

Politeness has to do with happily putting a person's needs and desires before our own. To put a biblical slant to that definition, we need to consider a few passages of Scripture, as there is biblical precedent for this attitude. First, Jesus taught that we should follow our natural inclination to do unto others as we would have them do to us. This is commonly known as the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:11, 12). Paul echoes this sentiment exhorting Christians to:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:3, 4
When we genuinely consider others better than ourselves, we are practicing humility in its purest form. We will then give careful consideration to their needs ahead of, or at least before, our own.

In a practical sense, a gentleman is one who puts at ease the people around him. He measures his words carefully, and naturally avoids awkward moments. He makes himself a welcome sight in any situation, as he knows beforehand how to act in whatever position he finds himself. He always seems to have the right answer, or at least some salient thoughts worth considering. He is naturally inclined toward the needs, thoughts, and feelings of others. These principles should be applied in equal measure to everyone. They will, however, be played out differently depending on the person or circumstance.

So, how could these seemingly universal values be a cause of conflict, even inspiring laws to be written to combat them when they are applied toward women and other people groups? The problem is that western culture's hostility toward the Judeo-Christian mindset is reaching an apex and is beginning to impose in earnest its vitriol on those who would live their lives by its tenets.

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Published on 5-16-16