So much of Spiritual Warfare I encounter has ties to unforgiveness. Perhaps you have someone in your life who has wronged you, hurt you, and took advantage of or even abused you. Whatever the case in your situation, the Bible is clear that God does not tolerate His children refusing to forgive. For many, the first step towards healing is through forgiveness.

Matthew 6 records the Lord’s prayer when Jesus teaches his disciples to pray. But His teaching extends beyond the end of the prayer when in the following few verses He says, (Matthew 6:14-15) “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” It bears worth noting here that this passage is written to Christians the whole of the context here is Jesus teaching believers how to speak to their Father in heaven.

At a different time during His earthly ministry, Jesus said: (Mark 11:25-26) “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.” Some would try to use these passages as proof that you can lose your salvation, however this is a faulty misunderstanding of what Jesus means. These verses are not salvation verses as we know once we have accepted Christ as our Savior we are saved (1 John 2:1, just to give one reference where many would apply). The intention of these verses is best seen through the lens of a father. Read more about understanding your relationship with your Heavenly Father by clicking here. 

Take a moment to read Matthew 18:21-35

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?

Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.

And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.

But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.

The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.

Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.

But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.

And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.

And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.

So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.

Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:

Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?

And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.

So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.

Peter asks how many times a person should be forgiven, and Jesus tells him to multiply his number by seventy! This is not an indication that we should keep track until a person uses up all 490 opportunities to hurt us, but rather a picture of the lengths we should be willing to go to forgive even someone who has repeatedly hurt us. After this simple answer, Jesus launches into a parable about a king who has a servant. Of course, the king represents God and the servant represents each of us. The king is made aware of an insurmountable debt of 10,000 talents. (Each single talent was equivalent to 6,000 days worth of wages!) In effect, Jesus said our sin debt is a ridiculously high number in the billions that is unfathomable and could never be paid off alone. If we are not forgiven of our own debt, we too will be sold in sin and servants to hell. However, the servant appeals to the king asking for patience and the king chooses to forgive him the great debt and frees the servant from his chains.

In the very next verse, however, that same servant goes out to find a fellow servant which owes him some money: 100 pence. This debt was equal to several thousand dollars (not just a few pennies as some scholars have believed) which notes that some in your life may genuinely have caused you offense and owe you a debt that would be difficult to forgive. The forgiven servant chooses not to forgive and puts his friend in prison.

The king is told about the situation and he demands an audience with the forgiven servant. Upon confronting him for his lack of compassion and forgiveness the king “delivers him to the tormentors” until he can repay his debt. This doesn’t mean you can lose your salvation, but is a picture of how you can open yourself up to spiritual warfare through bitterness. God is so displeased by your unwillingness to forgive that He will literally lift His hedge of spiritual protection from your life and allow the devil to have full access to you.

Why does God feel so strongly about forgiveness?

When you refuse to forgive, You’re forcibly taking God’s rightful position as judge. We do not have the power to judge, but through our unwillingness to forgive we are effectively holding someone on trial and calling them guilty for an offense God has already forgiven. You see, to truly forgive you have to understand not only that Christ’s death on the cross paid for your sins, but also paid for the sins others commit — including the ones they commit against you. When you forgive those who have hurt you, you are declaring Jesus’ blood as enough.

Please note, forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to subject yourself to an ongoing toxic relationship. God does not want us to be burdened, and sometimes separation has to occur in a relationship for the weight to be lifted. I plan to write more about this topic in a future article so stay tuned for how to deal with toxicity in your life. In the meantime, try checking out the book Boundaries by Henry Cloud for more help on this important issue.

Release the Prisoners

If you are guilty of holding a grudge or refusing forgiveness to someone who needs it, your first step should be to repent of your wrongdoing. Take your bitterness to God and ask for His forgiveness in this weighty matter. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you have to call them up and tell them you forgive them, but if the Holy Spirit prompts you to do that after you go through this process, let me encourage you to follow His leading, with humility. Here is a three step process to Biblical forgiveness:

1. Recognize – Recognize the wrong they have committed against you. This is an especially significant step if you’ve been in denial about their actions or have never voiced the way their wrongdoing has hurt you. Do this alone before God, or with a trusted spiritual advisor.

2. Release – Forgive them verbally out loud and release the person from their prison cell and from your right to see revenge. Say something like this: “I forgive _________, and release __________ from my right to seek revenge, or from asking God to bring retribution on them.” If it helps, picture yourself unlocking the jail cell and escorting them out of prison.

3. Bless – Once the other steps are done, take some time to pray a prayer of blessing over the person being sensitive to the areas of their life the Lord prompts you to pray into. Be specific and mean what you say. Luke 6:28 says “Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.”


Bitterness is a major cause of spiritual warfare because evil spirits seek to use the wounds others have inflicted upon you to create a spiritual infection. Bitterness is what unforgiveness develops into if left to fester, so take care to forgive all who have wronged you so you do not inadvertently leave a door open to spiritual warfare through unforgiveness.