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Androcles, a young Roman slave, sought escape in the wilderness from his unhappy life. Finding respite in a cave, he found himself face to face with a lion. The beast was anxious only for the removal of a thorn from his paw. Upon its extraction by Androcles, the lion submitted to the man, caring for him. After being captured as a runaway some time later, Androcles was sentenced to death-by-mauling within the coliseum. However, the lion let loose upon Androcles was one and the same who had benefited from the slave’s earlier kindness. Instead of attacking the defenseless man, the lion lay at his feet, whereupon both were released by an astounded Roman governor.
The story of Androcles and the lion prompts this question, “How does gratitude change us?” I believe that gratitude is one of the chief pillars of life. Gratitude says that we give acclaim to Someone outside ourselves. Our response to this outside gift-giver is the basis for ethics: doing right by how we live. Doing right is proper response to gratitude. Doing right is based on remembering we live because of the gift given by Another. Doing right is a small response to a large endowment. Gratitude caused the apostle Paul to exclaim about Jesus, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” To acknowledge life as a gift of God, one’s whole focus and concentration is moved from ourselves to One outside ourselves.
Disciples of Jesus as Lord bow the knee to their Sovereign Savior both in response to Who He is as well as what He has done. Following His instructions is the least we can do to show our gratitude. “Androcles and The Lion” teaches the lesson that doing what is right is first motivated by someone doing right by us. Gratitude is the basis for ethics.