Every year hundreds of biographies are published. Some are for family reading only. Others, like President Clintonís My Life, become best sellers. People like to read about other peopleís lives. Sometimes they want to be inspired. Sometimes they just want all the dirt thatís not fit to print, but gets printed anyway. Here are some short biographies of members of the church in Corinth around the latter part of the first century. While these are fictional accounts, some are based on real people. All could be people we know. Some could even be the person we know better than anyone else.
My name is Jacobus, but you can call me Jimmy. I was raised on the island of Cyprus. It was there I became a sailor. Iíve been on ships that plied all parts of the Mediterranean Sea. Like most sailors, I have had my favorite ports of call. A few people have always liked to sail into the eastern Med. Caesarea is nice, if you like shopping and water sports. Syria was OK, although you could only enjoy Damascus if you had money. Most of us preferred the western ports, like Rome and Athens. But the port that most sailors, myself included, looked forward to was here in Corinth. Here you can get most everything you want, cheaply. Cheap clothes, cheap booze, and especially cheap women. Corinth is the world capital of cheap temple prostitutes. (And with most of them, the temple was just a legal excuse.) Sure, some of us had wives back home. That didnít matter. What good is a wife several weeks across the sea when you have a woman close at hand? Sure, thereís always the danger of disease, but thatís what shipís doctors are for. Corinth was the favorite port for a ship full of lonely men.
One day I had had enough of the women and the alcohol, and wanted to see some of the town. Besides, I needed to buy souvenirs for my wife. As I wandered through the marketplace I saw a crowd gathered around a speaker. The way they were jeering him I figured he was a local politician, but I was up for a good laugh so I joined the crowd. Instead it was a guy named Paul. He was talking about how his life had changed. He said he had stood around and watched a mob murder a man. He said he later had a vision that changed him. Now he was going around teaching about the man whose follower he had seen murdered. This was a man who could forgive people of anything they had done wronghe used the word ďsin.Ē Somehow he seemed to be speaking to me. I realized I was tired of the prostitutes, the disease, the cheating on my wife. Until now I had just figured there was nothing I could do about it. Now I was hearing a different story. Not only could I stop, I could be forgiven those things I had already done. This was good news indeed!
Shortly after I started following this man, Jesus, I quit the sailing life. I brought my wife here to Corinth. Now I live as a sailmaker and tell sailors about Jesus. Itís kind of interesting, what Iím doing. You see, they guy I heard in the market that day, heís a canvas worker, too.
Maximus seems an ordinary guy. He has an ordinary job in an ordinary part of Corinth. He has a bit of talent with a sketchpad, but otherwise his is just like you and me. Except with one significant difference. Maximus likes men. I mean, Maximus will probably never have children, because men canít have children. He used to live a different ďlifestyleĒ than most of us. There are more and more people in the Empire who are saying that this is just a natural, though different, set of desires. Others of us think that it will be one of the causes of the fall of the Roman Empire. Maximus used to be part of that scene. I even heard one of his friends say once that everybody had a right to try it once just to see if it was right for them.
You may have noticed that I talk as if Maximus isnít one of those people any more. That may be only partly true. I know he doesnít spend time with his boyfriends like he used to. I canít guarantee that he no longer has the desire. I just know that he no longer does those things.
You see, Maximus has changed. Maximus is now a Christian. It had nothing to do with how he was living. He heard a preacher one day, and investigated further what he had heard. The more he studied, the more he realized that this was the way he wanted to follow. This was the hope he was missing, and dearly wanted. It was only after he had been studying Christianity for a while that he realized he could not keep doing what he was doing and still be what he wanted to be. More importantly, he could not keep doing what he was doing and still be who Jesus wanted him to be. In the beginning God had made man and a woman, and said that their desires should be toward each other. (Read the early part of Genesis to learn about that.) So Maximus changed what he was doing, and became a Christian.
I donít know if Maximus will ever marry. It doesnít really matter. He struggles sometimes with temptation, especially if he has to go in the vicinity of certain temples. But I also know that he overcomes those temptations. We talk about it sometimes. He knows where he has been. He knows where he is going. The latter is better than the former.
My name is Shlomo, or Solomon. It means peace, but that is something that has been missing through most of my life. I havenít been the most peaceful of men. In fact, I am spending time in a Roman prison because I killed some people. Maybe I had better tell the whole truth. I killed several people over several years, and even ate parts of some of them. Now, how could I have been at peace and have done that? Needless to say, I got caught. While I was here in prison I got letters. Some of them were from women who just wanted to be associated with a mass murderer. One of them, though, was from a woman who said she was interested in who I could be, not who I had been. She told me about a Jew named Yeshua, who died and was seen alive later. She said he was the Messiah my people have been looking for, and that he offered forgiveness. She said that his death was a final sacrifice for sin, and that the priests no longer needed to offer bulls and goats. After we wrote back and forth she arranged for a man to come into the prison and immerse me in a mikva. Our old way of purification still applied.
Now I live up to my name. I am at peace. I know I did wrong. I know I could never have paid for that evil, no matter how long I stayed in this prison. But thanks be to God, I donít have to worry about that any more. I also know that there are people in here who would like to see me dead. It wouldnít be hard to kill me. A broomstick, a piece of metal, anything can be made into a weapon. But I am at peace. I know that if they kill me, I just get to leave this prison. I will get to go home, and that is real peace.
You may have heard about Micah. He used to be the chief steward in the regional governorís house. Everybody thought he had it made. Good position. Good income. It wouldnít be long until he moved up to Caesarís house, they all said. But Micah didnít have it made. He didnít think he had enough. That is why he started taking money out of the household treasury. Not just any money. He took what the other servants were counting on to keep them going when they could no longer work. He thought of himself, not others. He probably would have gotten caught, eventually. Instead he surprised everybody by announcing that he was an embezzler. Even though he doesnít make as much as he did then, he is paying it all back. He says he plans on paying it back fourfold.
Why did Micah admit to his crime? Why is he paying it back? It is because Micah knows of a different treasure. Jesus talked about laying up treasures in heaven. Micah heard, and realized that there was more to life than life. He had to prepare for eternal life. As a Christian, Micah is happier than he was as an embezzler. He now has enough, and more than enough.
Time and space donít allow me to tell all the stories I would like. There is the woman who made a living as a professional witness. (She would say anything for the right amount of money.) There are a couple of former temple prostitutes and the man who used to beat his wife. There is even the wife who used to beat her husband. And everybody knows about the man who used to sleep with his stepmother. Paul wrote about him once. The list could go on and on. That is because the congregation in Corinth, and indeed in any place, is made up of people who have less than favorable backgrounds. Call them what you like, but the right word is sinners. If they (we) werenít sinners, we wouldnít need Jesus. But we do. That is why Paul could tell the church in Corinth, ďKnow ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.Ē (1 Cor 6:9-11) Yes, such were some of us. If God can forgive us, surely we can forgive others, no matter what they were.