What does the word sin mean to you?

The word has strong negative connotations. Maybe you associate sin with especially heinous crimes like rape. Maybe it calls to mind memories of a televangelist ranting about damnation. Or maybe you think the whole idea of sin is irrelevant. Which perspective is true?

Whatever your take, our modern understanding of sin comes from the Bible. The Bible describes sin as any thought or activity that goes against God’s will. That covers obvious, awful crimes like murder—but it also covers the little ways that we hurt others in our everyday lives. Even the holiest person you can think of messes up from time to time.

But there’s more to sin than good old-fashioned bad behavior. The Bible teaches us that sin is so ingrained in the human experience that it marks even our most beautiful accomplishments.

And that’s bad news, because sin keeps us from connecting with God. He’s so perfect that sin simply can’t come near him. That means that people who have sinned—people like us—can’t get close to him either. It doesn’t matter if your sin was big or little—just like even a little pinch of the wrong ingredient spoils the entire recipe, even just a tiny little sin makes you too sinful to meet with God. Fortunately, that’s not where the story ends.

God loves you, despite your mistakes. He wants to be in a relationship with you. But for that to happen, the sin has to go away. You can’t make that happen on your own. You can’t scrub away your past sins by yourself. And no matter how hard you try, you just can’t live a life that’s free of sin’s taint.

This is what has been called “the problem of sin,” and spiritually speaking, it’s the greatest hurdle any of us will ever face. It’s also the central question around which all of Christianity is concentrated. Is there a solution to the problem of sin?

Well, there’s a reason that the message of Jesus Christ is called the “good news.” Christians say that a Jewish man who lived in 1st-century Palestine holds the answer to our sin problem. Read more about Jesus and his incredible claims.