When Evil is Systemic

How do we get help when the whole system is corrupt?

2 Samuel 13:20-22 

20 Her brother Absalom said to her, ‘Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you? Be quiet for now, my sister; he is your brother. Don’t take this thing to heart.’ And Tamar lived in her brother Absalom’s house, a desolate woman.

21 When King David heard all this, he was furious. 22 And Absalom never said a word to Amnon, either good or bad; he hated Amnon because he had disgraced his sister Tamar.

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When George Pell was convicted a few months ago, what I found most surprising was not his conviction, but the number of people who had covered up his story or even defended him after he was found guilty. It’s bad enough that someone would commit such evil acts without having systems that conceal or protect the abusers! What we see in this story in 2 Samuel, and what we still see in the world, is that evil is a systemic problem. When systems are this broken, evil will flourish.

Can you imagine suffering all the trauma that Tamar suffered, and then having your own brother tell you, “Be quiet for now. Don’t take this thing to heart.” What a pathetic response! And when her father David found out, the King of Israel, the one who should protect her wellbeing, what did he do? He was angry, but he did nothing. In fact, the whole thing feels like a massive cover-up. The whole system was corrupt. It seems astounding that even King David did nothing to confront this evil, until we realise that the chapters immediately before this story tell of his own sin with Bathsheba and the cover-up that involved murdering Uriah. David probably felt so guilty about his own sin (and rightly so!) that he felt in no position to condemn his son for following in his footsteps. It’s a tragic example of how our sin grows and spreads, tainting everything around us and blinding us to evil. Such systemic evil needs a solution from outside the system; a solution that isn’t tainted by the evil already. As with so much in 2 Samuel, this story leaves us crying out for rescue from the brokenness. It leaves us waiting for a better king of Israel, one who will conquer evil and protect the vulnerable; a king who comes from outside the evil system, and who is guiltless enough to condemn evil without being a hypocrite. This story is actually pointing us forward to Jesus, showing our need for a saviour. Only he can rescue us from the systemic evil and show us a better way.

Head: What broken systems are you a part of? Work environment, family dynamic, cultural context, and social structures all shape our character and behaviour profoundly. How do yours shape you? Are there particular forms of sin that you’ve become numb to because of these systems?

Heart: Repent of your own sin and of the ways it’s blinded you from seeing other evils. Allow Jesus to redefine your moral code so that you are no longer defined by the system around you.

Hands: When we stand by and let someone hurt another, we are complicit in the abuse. What would it look like for you to challenge some of the evils you are exposed to today? Are there politicians you should write to or workplace authorities you should speak with to challenge some systemic problems?


God, you have seen our brokenness and our sin, but instead of turning away in disgust you stepped down in love. You have rescued us from evil and given us a new life and a new identity as people of God. Please empower us by your spirit to live as people of God, not people of the world. May our new lives show the transformation you have done and bring glory to Jesus. Please keep restoring the world and growing your kingdom of righteousness on earth. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

A song to listen to: You Alone Can Rescue

Matthew Ventura

Living Church City South Campus