Q: If someone has wronged you and it takes you a very long time to forgive them (like maybe several years), is there any irreperable harm done to the relationship? I mean, can't God redeem anything ... so there would always be the hope that the relationship can return to normal once the forgiveness is finally offered? A: This sounds like a question being asked by someone with a guilty conscience! The answer is that of course God can redeem anything. However, God doesn't typically override the natural consequences of our own poor choices. Withholding forgiveness is a sin. Like other sin, it has consequences which can sometimes be quite devastating. Those consequences might be a relationship that is so injured that it cannot recover. Unless there is a deeply repentant heart (on the part of the one offering the forgiveness) I wouldn't expect God to redeem anything. Let's say a family dispute goes on between siblings for maybe 20 years. Then the sibling withholding the forgiveness decides to call a truce and suddenly starts speaking again. Can the relationship be restored back to what it was before? I doubt it. In this example, you've got 20 years of bitterness held against someone. This injures the heart of the one to be forgiven. And it may injure that heart to the point that they no longer care about restoring the relationship. They no longer believe that they are loved. It's been said that actions speak louder than words. This is especially true in the case of long withheld forgiveness. If you've acted in an unforgiving way for 20 years, you cannot expect a few words of reconciliation to cancel out all those actions. Nor can you blame God for the mess you created by withholding the forgiveness all those years.
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