Yesterday I told you all that today would be a Serious Saturday, and it is serious and very sad. R. Kelly and Robert Kraft were both arrested yesterday for sex related charges. R. Kelly has a long history, dating all the way back to the early 90’s, of accusations against him involving underage girls. Robert Kraft has been arrested for soliciting prostitution from a day spa that is being accused of being involved in a larger human trafficking operation; in other words, they are being accused of being a cog in a wide web of sex slavery. What both of these stories actually show is the very sad and very serious reality of systemic sin.
The Bible is very clear on original sin, and the fact that each individual human is responsible for their own disobedience to God. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” In Isaiah 64:6 we are told, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” We are all truly lost “like sheep who have gone astray,” and we all must individually turn from our sins and find our hope in Christ alone for salvation.
The individual original sin of each human is undeniable, but sometimes we fail to realize some organizations can be corrupted and taken over with systemic sin. One individual sinner apart from God equals a fully evil person; well, many sinners who are wandering away from God can become a fully evil organization very easily. This is why Ephesians 2 tells us that Satan is “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the wrest of mankind.” Satan is not just some red guy with a pitchfork who sits on your shoulder and gets you to do naughty things; he is actually working behind people and systems in our world to try and halt the work of the gospel. Satan isn’t only a personal devil-he is a roaring lion who seeks to devour and swallow up whoever he can; and so this means he is involved at the corporate, governmental, systemic level of our world. We are in a spiritual battle as Christians. Yes, this is one that Satan has no shot at winning, as we read in the book of Revelation, nonetheless, until Satan is fully bound we live in the reality of the already/not yet Kingdom which means we are in spiritual warfare, and Satan is involved at the systemic level of society until the return of Christ.
When you read the book of Proverbs you will meet a “gang” that the Fatherly voice of the author does not want his son to join up with. This gang is essentially marked by the “Seven Deadly Sins,” and they lure the young man to come with them to live a life of iniquity rather than following in the ways of God. In proverbs, we get a good picture of what systemic sin looks like, and we also see Wisdom personified in the Lord Yahweh Himself! Proverbs shows that sin can perpetuate through systems as individually responsible individuals enter into the system, and sin is heaped on top of sin, and this causes vast sin spreading far and wide. Others get wrapped up into this as well; just consider Numbers 14:18, “The Lord is slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but by no means clearing all the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children to the third and fourth generation.” This verse shows that the sins of the guilty cause a systemic sin within the family unit that actually has affects on children down to the third and fourth generation. So, while people are absolutely held accountable as individuals for their actions, they may also be involved in some sort of systemic sin– individual responsibility and communal sin are not mutually exclusive when studying the biblical passages about Original Sin.
So, let’s bring this back to R. Kelly. How in the world has R. Kelly been able to live as a free man with accusations swirling against him being involved with underage girls dating all the way back to 1992? Think about it, R. Kelly has been in a position of power all along. He’s had money, connections, friends, talent, charisma, record sales, products, businesses, all in his corner. So, when a young lady is being groomed by a guy like R. Kelly they see all that he has to offer them. They also have the outside pressure of voices in their ear telling them what to do, maybe they come from places where there are not many financial opportunities, and who knows what other kinds of pressures they face. Not to mention, they are young and don’t have the benefit of fully developed brains or just life-experience to help them sort through the lies people like R. Kelly tell them. So, these girls are put into a situation where R. Kelly is able to use his power over and against them to get what he wants by promising to get them what they want. The system that R. Kelly is a part of actually protects him and allows him to be an aggressor against those underneath his power. 27 years of allegations against R. Kelly points to a system that allowed this to go on– when this happens there must be justice against the system, and it must be broken. Justice and grace can meet, and there can be true repentance that takes place, and even healing; when there is justice and grace there can be healing for those who have been sinned against, and yes even those who have sinned.
What about R. Kraft? Well, details are still emerging from this case so some things will need to go unsaid for now, but by all accounts from police this appears to be a wide-spread human trafficking situation. According to Business Insider, “Police said women lived in the parlors and were coerced into having sex for money.” The police are saying that there are multiple spas and massage parlors involved in this scheme that Kraft got arrested in, but another 200 people have also been arrested or will be. Robert Kraft has maintained his innocence in this case. Regardless of whether he is innocent or not, the fact still remains that there are young women IN THE UNITED STATES who are being coerced into performing sex acts by “the powers that be.” This is manipulation, sexual abuse, abuse of power, and yes, it is systemic sin. The women who have been coerced into doing whatever has gone on in that spa have been victimized in a power scheme that grants them no power. These women are treated as less than human, and their freedom has been stripped for them… Why? Apparently because multi-billionaires are willing to pay their bosses a decent sum of money to visit obscure strip malls in the middle of Florida, because there is a system in place that allows it to go on. I pray for justice-not wordly justice, but biblical justice which involves both the judgment of God and the grace and mercy of God. I pray for healing in and through the person and the work of Jesus for the young women victimized by both R. Kelly and the people overseeing the operation R. Kraft got arrested in.
My hope is that more and more people will begin to identify systemic sin wherever it exists, and we can work to bring justice and even healing and reconciliation to those caught up in it. Currently we have a need as Christians to address this sort of thing in the areas of: sex slavery and human trafficking, racism, and abortion. The clearest example of systemic sin in the United States today is seen in the fact that completely powerless babies are being killed in a power-scheme that allows this to go on legally and guilt-free. Think about it and you can draw your own conclusions.