It’s tricky writing, talking, and even singing about healing in the Bible. Many stories focus on Jesus physically “curing” people’s illnesses or disabilities. We know, though, that this is not most people’s experience in 2023. Many Christians live with ongoing illnesses and disabilities. Does Brandon Lake actually describe biblical healing in his new song “Tear Off the Roof?” How can we reconcile the healing narratives of the gospels with most people’s experiences today?

For starters, many people relate to having a disability differently than they would have centuries ago. We have learned that so many of the difficulties people encounter are due to their environment, due to the stigma they face, and due to barriers of the world around us rather than due to the disability or physical impairment itself.

A book we have referenced here before, Disability and the Way of Jesus: Holistic Healing in the Gospels and in the Church does a good job of offering thoughtful perspectives on Jesus’ healing in a modern context, and its author Bethany McKinney Fox shares stories from a variety of disabled Christians on how they relate to these texts. Similarly, Amy Kenny in My Body is Not a Prayer Request offers first-hand experiences of how “healing” has too often been weaponized in the Church as a way to minimize the faith or contributions of Christians with disabilities.

brandon lake carries his guitar on a road, singing "Tear off the Roof"I was pleasantly described, then, to discover Brandon Lake’s new song Tear Off the Roof. Rather than peddle in worn disability stereotypes and stigma-perpetuating prejudice, Brandon does a number of things right in this song.

1. Tear off the Roof doesn’t shy away from the Bible

Sometimes, it can be easiest to avoid tensions altogether and avoid the healing accounts in the Bible. Well, I don’t say it often, but this isn’t a very Christian approach. 😊 Lake points directly to healing accounts in Mark 2 (the healing of a paralyzed man) and Luke 8 (the healing of a woman who has suffered from bleeding for 12 years) in his Instagram post on the song.

Lake partners with the hit television show the Chosen to weave these first-century accounts into his official music video.

2. Tear off the Roof doesn’t focus on physical cures

The chorus of Brandon Lake’s song celebrates Jesus’ power and presence for whatever Kingdom work is needed in the world, not only the physical curing or “fixing” of illness or disability.

There’s power in the presence
Power in the blood, power in the name of Jesus

Similarly, his emphasis in the verses and in the accounts is not centred on the specific results of people’s faith so much as their faith itself. “I gotta faith without a ceiling” and “I’ve got a faith beyond the bleeding.”

Finally, the bridge gets to what this power is all about:

There is a life changing
Grave shaking, dead raising power in the room
Heart-healing, hell-stealing
No ceiling power, so tear off the roof

The healing that Lake emphasizes is the changing of hearts that would go so far as to tear off roofs to bring people to Jesus. If you want to talk about physical cure, Lake sings, don’t stop at “fixing” bodies – Jesus can raise the dead. In fact, life changing/heart-healing/resurrection power is healing that we all need, not only those who navigate the world as body-minds with noticeable limitations or illnesses.

3. Tear off the Roof demands action

Many worship songs are reflective and passive – celebrating and receiving God’s love and grace for us. This is important – we love because God first loved us. Tear off the Roof goes a step further, though, and reminds us that we can’t stop there. How can we believe in Jesus’ grave-shaking power without confronting the systems and structures that prevent people from reaching Him? How can we believe in Christ’s healing of our own lives without tearing down the walls and barriers that keep people from our places of worship and ministry?

Lake’s song is a reminder that there is still much work to do. Most of our buildings don’t literally need their roofs torn off. Yet they might need sections torn out to install an elevator or a ramp added for people to get to the stage. Our churches might not be so crowded that people can’t push their way to the front, but they might need larger font sizes so that people can read the lyrics, or sign interpreters so that everybody can participate and learn together.

This site contains many accessibility resources that can help churches “tear off the roof” (not literally, probably?), and many posts about healing, such as Jasmine Duckworth’s “Come as You Are? Thoughts on Healing

You can also check out the EFC’s “Life Together”  resource or “Everybody Belongs, Serving Together” over at Faithward. For Canadian voices, be sure to listen to the Disability and the Canadian Church podcast! 

Oh, and be sure to watch the full music video for “Tear Off the Roof” below!