I love history, especially church history. I have a bucket list of dozen of places I want to visit because of the richness of church history throughout Europe. When I heard the news of the fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral I was saddened because a piece of history had been lost that will never be recovered. Hours after the fire people are already talking about rebuilding what was lost, but it will never be the same. Even our culture that has amnesia to history has this sense of something great has been lost and will never be able to be recovered or made right again. One might ask, why does an old building getting burned illicit such a response from our hearts? Let’s take a minute to set the stage before we answer that question.
In Genesis 1-2 we see the beauty of God’s creation without the taint of sin. Adam and Eve are able to be in God’s presence and enjoy Him forever, there is no distance, there is no separation. It is a perfect place where nothing ever made them sad, lonely, sick or afraid. Everything was perfect. Then comes Genesis 3, Adam and Eve trade their relationship with God with their desire to be God and are deceived into heart ache and pain for the rest of their lives and for all of humanity that would follow. This sin would lead to the banishment of Adam and Eve from God’s presence because God is Holy and sin cannot dwell in His presence. It would also usher in death to all. Not only that but all of creation has been longing for the day since then when the Seed that would set all things right would come and crush the head of the Serpent.
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all people, because all sinned. In fact, sin was in the world before the law, but sin is not charged to a person’s account when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin in the likeness of Adam’s transgression. He is a type of the Coming One.” (Romans 5:12-14 CSB)
Here lies the answer to our question above. We mourn over a Cathedral because it is a reminder to us of something else that had been lost and broken and would never be the same again, our relationship with God. Sin has created this separation with us from God. A relationship where humanity once walked with God in the Garden of Eden, now can no longer be in His presence because of our sin that we have inherited from Adam. All throughout the Old Testament there are these rules and regulations for coming into God’s presence and it was only the High Priest that was allowed to after a period of purification and only once a year on the Day of Atonement to cover the sins of the people. If anyone approached God carelessly or in a way that He did not intend, they would die because there was no mediator between God and man, because God is Holy, we are sinners and we needed a Savior. Enter in the Seed that would crush the head of the Serpent and set all things right.
“So then, as through one trespass there is condemnation for everyone, so also through one righteous act there is justification leading to life for everyone. For just as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so also through the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. The law came along to multiply the trespass. But where sin multiplied, grace multiplied even more so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace will reign through righteousness, resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:18-21 CSB)
God knew that there was no way for man to come to Him, so He came to man in the person of Jesus Christ. He became the sinless, perfect sacrifice that would take away the sins of the world that lived a life perfect and holy before God that we could never live. He died the death that we should have died because the punishment for our sin is death. Then God raised Him from the dead forever reigning over sin and death for those who put faith in Him.
Yet, we live in the already, but not yet. We live already having experienced the forgiveness and peace we have with God through Jesus Christ, yet we live in the effects of sin on our world still. There are still tragic events that happen every day because sin still exists and corrupts the good things that God created. When an 850 year old Cathedral is burned and destroyed we mourn because something beautiful has been ravaged by the effects of sin. We also look forward in hope knowing that something more beautiful is coming. We look forward to knowing that one day every tear will be wiped away and all the sadness of our world we be undone. As someone who loves church history I am genuinely saddened by the fire and the history and art that has been lost and will never be experienced by so many, including myself. However, it is moments like these that should cause us as Christians to reflect on something so much more beautiful that had been lost, but is now ours in Christ. Not because we earned it or deserved it, but because God graciously made a plan of redemption before the foundations of the world were laid.