The complement system plays a major role in the autoimmune disease, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). However, the role of complement in SLE is complex since it may both prevent and exacerbate the disease. In this review, we explore the latest findings in complement-focused research in SLE. C1q deficiency is the strongest genetic risk factor for SLE, although such deficiency is very rare. Various recently discovered genetic associations include mutations in the complement receptors 2 and 3 as well as complement inhibitors, the latter related to earlier onset of nephritis. Further, autoantibodies are a distinct feature of SLE that are produced as the result of an adaptive immune response and how complement can affect that response is also being reviewed. SLE generates numerous disease manifestations involving contributions from complement such as glomerulonephritis and the increased risk of thrombosis. Furthermore, since most of the complement system is present in plasma, complement is very accessible and may be suitable as biomarker for diagnosis or monitoring of disease activity. This review highlights the many roles of complement for SLE pathogenesis and how research has progressed during recent years.