Dr. Gail O’Day Presents Carr Lecture

March 30, 2012

ALLIANCE, Ohio — Dr. Gail O’Day, dean and professor of New Testament and preaching at Wake Forest University’s School of Divinity, presented the Joseph M. Carr Lecture at the University of Mount Union on March 29.

O’Day’s lecture, Friendship as a Christian Practice: Embodying Jesus’ Love in an Anxious World, focused on how friendship is portrayed in the Gospel of John and how to carry friendship on in the world. There seems to be a focus on friendship in the secular world, O’Day said.

O’Day illustrated modern society’s diluted version of friendship through Facebook friends and how it changes the word friend into an adjective or a verb. O’Day shared that in the Greek language, friendship actually means “one who loves.”

She used a scripture from John 15:13 to describe the three motifs of friendship. The first motif is “to lay down one’s life for another.” She shared that Aristotle taught this same teaching of friendship that the Gospel teaches and that John’s readers would have “recognized” this teaching. The second and third motifs are the most ignored, O’Day explained. The second is to “speak boldly to one another.” She noted that there is a difference between speaking honestly and speaking in flattery to one another. The last motif, “friends have things in common,” is a “strong undercurrent in John,” O’Day stated. Jesus was the greatest example of all three of these motifs, she added.

“Jesus did what the philosophers just talked about,” O’Day stated.

O’Day also noted that Jesus was the ultimate friend and chose to lay down His own life rather than his life being taken away. The Gospel of John is the one Gospel that emphasizes that Jesus’ sacrifice was very much a choice.

“We tend to think of Jesus as the model of friendship, but Jesus is also the source of friendship,” O’Day shared. “What he has given is love; the sharing of all things.”

O’Day suggested that through John’s outlook, the commonly known WWJD, “What Would Jesus Do?” should be changed to, WWFJD, “What Would Friends of Jesus Do?” She also said that Christians can’t worry about who is on the receiving end of friendship. O’Day lastly urged focusing on the “act” rather than “the impact.”

O’Day earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Brown University, a Master of Theological Studies degree from the Harvard Divinity School and Doctor of Philosophy degree from Emory University. Her scholarly research focuses on the Gospel of John, the Bible and preaching and the history of biblical interpretation.

Prior to her appointment at Wake Forest in 2010, O’Day taught religion at Hamilton College, Eden Theological Seminary and Emory University. While at Emory, she served in many capacities including assistant professor of biblical teaching, senior associate dean of faculty and academic affairs and chief academic officer for the Candler School of Theology.

She has written a number of books and articles including the commentary on the Gospel of John in The New Interpreters Bible (1996) and most recently, “Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary: A Guide (Abingdon Press, 2007).” O’Day is editor or co-editor of several volumes such as Oxford Access Bible (Oxford University Press, 1999) and the Theological Bible Commentary (Westminster John Knox Press, 2009). She served as the editor of the Journal of Biblical Literature from 1999-2006 and is general editor of the Society of Biblical Literature book series, Early Christianity and its Literature.

The Joseph M. Carr Lectureship was established in 1916 by the terms of the will of Rev. Joseph M. Carr, D.D., a close associate of President Hartshorn in the early days of Mount Union. The conditions under which the lectureship was given state that the lecture shall always be upon the subject “The Mission of the Christian College to the World.” For more information on the Carr Lecture, visit www.mountunion.edu/carr-lecture.

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