AnnMarie Kneebone raises some really interesting issues with regards to sin and forgiveness within the Christian faith tradition in her post "Forgive and Retain". It's based on a passage in the Bible's book of John where Jesus says to his followers,
"Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
The question regarding when, if ever, is it appropriate for us to retain the transgressions of others is a thought-provoking issue. Perhaps the motives, attitude, and/or comprehension level of the transgressor plays a role in how we can come to a decision in individual cases.
There are those who steal because they are starved and desperate. There are others who steal because they are covetous and impatient to have that which they could, but will not, work for. I think that it would be easier to make a case for retaining that person's transgression than it would be with regards to the person who was stealing because their body had basically gone into survival mode.
With regards to attitude, I guess we could use two cases where people who committed vehicular homicide while driving drunk as an example. Let's say that between their conviction and when they're to be sentenced, one of the murderers went out and made a serious effort to apologize to the victim's family and started speaking to student groups about the consequences of drinking and driving. The other convicted murderer does none of these things and even gets pulled over for driving drunk again. I don't think that God expects us to forgive the second murderer even if that person admits to what they've done because they still haven't even shown any proof that they are willing to turn away from doing the same thing that has already killed one innocent person.
I think the last factor I mentioned is probably the hardest to make use of. Let's say a 30 year old of average intelligence shoots and kills a random stranger and then tells the police that they did it purposely. Let's also say a ten year old child with average intelligence does the exact same thing. Should we forgive or retain the child's wrongdoing? I kind of feel like maybe we should (or, at least, could) forgive the child even if they haven't expressed any remorse because I don't believe that someone that age could really understand the full implications of their actions. With regards to the adult, well, I think it's a lot more likely that they understood just what it means to take the life of another person but chose to murder anyway. Their ability to fully comprehend what they were doing means I'm not going to be as willing to forgive them before they show remorse.
Does any of what I wrote make sense to you? It's a journey, I think. Ideally, I could forgive much more freely than I do now. It's something I need to work on, that's for sure.