Posted by Tim Harrelson

“I Plead the Fifth” – A Right Appeal to Authority

The fifth commandment is God’s gracious provision of authority structures to a sinful people. This is shown on the foundational level of parents, but also extends to civil authorities, from local police, to city officials, governors, mayors, congress, representatives, and the presidency. What this means for those bullied is that it is not shameful to appeal to God’s provision of authorities. Your parents, teachers, and bosses were put into their position partly in order to help address these sorts of things. Taking advantage of “pleading the fifth” doesn’t always mean go tell them so they can make the situation go away. This can look like a number of different ways.

One could consult their parents to gain insight into their situation. Odds are, your parents are older than you. Therefore, they probably have more experience in dealing with the world, fallen people, and the problems that fallen humans typically face. It may be to your advantage, then, to bring your problems before them and ask them for help and prayer. If your parents are not Christians, it is still possible that they have wisdom in dealing with others, though their advice may need to be held to Scripture. In any case, it might wise to open up to them your concerns.

Another possibility is to alert your teacher or supervisor to what has been going on. Since they would be over the situation, they would be able to exercise their responsibility to serve those under them in various ways. There is no shame in this, though many may feel insignificant or vulnerable at the mention of this option. However, if we remember that God gave to us structural authorities for our good, because of our sin, then we can remember to take advantage of God’s gift to fallen people.

A third possibility is to get in contact with one of your pastors or a gospel-centered counselor. While they may not be able to take any action in the matter, they most certainly be a great help in helping you sort through your thoughts and feelings. It is of the utmost importance that the one we consult to get our thoughts and feelings worked out is eager to point us to Christ as we do so. When we go through difficulties and hurts and struggle with temptations and sins, we need help to see how to better understand the depth of Christ’s finished work on our behalf and our responsible, heartfelt response to Him. If there is anything that is going to provide encouragement and direction, it will be counsel from the cross.

Yet, there are also precautions here. Normally, when we get hurt, we are made to feel week, ashamed, and humiliated. Oftentimes, a reaction that can occur in our minds is to make the person or persons feel the same way they made us feel. So we go to our big brothers, parents, or other authorities with that purpose – revenge. We must remember the words of our Lord in this matter, both “vengeance is mine” (Rom. 12:19) and “love your enemies.” (Mt. 5:44)  Our motives must be rooted in love. Love for our enemies and love for justice. It is loving to our enemies to desire right justice in a problematic situation. For, if it is done properly, justice serves to correct the one at fault and set them on the right path – justice is meant to lead people to repentance and/or to purify the situation. For justice to be sincere, an honest reputation of both parties must be presented. We are not to bear a false witness to our accuser by exaggerating or concealing any true information. Granted, every witness gives a subjective account (Prov. 18:17). But, as far as it is up to you, you must be responsible for your witness.