Tread carefully here???
OK, the filthy rags thing is a rich spiritual diagnostic when dealing with the man in the mirror. Self appraisal is certainly a critical element of personal spiritual discipline. When our sincere analysis reveals evidence of self-righteousness the filthy rags descriptive applies. In the larger context, we must remember that Isaiah spoke these prophetic words to the nation of Judah. They laid claim to the blessings of being God's chosen people but had forsaken their spiritual heritage. Religious ritual of their own making had replaced genuine worship and the laws God had commanded to guide them. While the message of salvation predominates his prophecy, Isaiah condemned their rebellion and harshly judged their present status. The hope of a coming Messiah was clearly promised to Judah. But, their unjust treatment of others and disobedience to the precepts of faith were his consistent theme. He announced that they had become unclean---
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.
Isaiah 64: 6, NIV
The thought of treading carefully here predominates application of these verses. One of the temptations is to apply the truth of Isaiah's prophecy to our own nation, the United States of America. Of course, we are not the nation of Judah. And, the spiritual question of the day may be whether or not America was founded to be a Christian nation and is now, therefore, in rebellion against our founding purpose and the God who engineered our beginnings. The words "Christian nationalism" are the trendy editorial themes in the current religious landscape of our nation. Many Christians would label the wide range of non-Christian spiritual practices across the fruited plain as filthy rags, a departure from the minds and hearts of our founders. Many others argue that America was not intended to be a Christian nation and, as a result, cannot be guilty of abandoning God or his guidance in our national systems.
Was America founded as a Christian nation? It depends on who you ask. To be honest, we really can't make that call. None of us were present when those brilliant framers envisioned our representative republic. At the same time, America's founders are long deceased and we cannot consult them about their intentions. We do possess volumes of their writings and can learn from them. However, our own biases and prejudices influence our interpretation of what they recorded and how their beliefs were factored into their founding decisions. There is little argument that many of those first Americans were Christians and contributed Christian ideals into the initial legal processes. They obviously celebrated religious freedom and envisioned a government free from religious domination. It's hard to believe they could imagine a country as pluralistic and diverse as ours is today. But, they did not establish a theocratic system of governance. That is certain. Many of them were bold in their Christian beliefs. But,
I'm not sure they intended for America to be a Christian oligarchy.
No, if i was in charge of contemporary labels and organizational assessments, which I am not BTW, I would characterize the church as the filthy rags of Isaiah's prophetic future. Surely Christ's church is the "...chosen people, royal priesthood, holy nation, a people for his own possession..." (see 1 Peter 2:9, ESV) clearly identified in Scripture. Today we're in the people business more than the God business. There's a survival mode mentality that Isaiah would have identified and condemned. Filthy rags would characterize the contemporary church's feeble worship and mission, and the spiritual leaders who have stooped to such lowness.
It's a dark cloud we'd prefer to hide behind, the almost imperceptible roots of filthy rags. In the background is the ever-present stress of pleasing the human species at the cost of surrendering God's pleasure. I mean, we're people of grace, not legalistic, and surely God will understand those little adjustments we make to bring others into the influence of the Gospel! Really, now??? And there we are, the up-to-date incarnation of Judah, going through the motions with little meaning or affect. Filthy rags, indeed!
Yes, the man in the mirror deals with the filthy rags of pretense and spiritual shallowness every single day. Even Isaiah, the prophet called and commissioned by God saw himself among the unclean, filthy rags of Judah. Even more, the contemporary church, the Body of Christ, God's new covenant holy nation and chosen people, must acknowledge a very clear, yet simple New Testament truth---
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I
were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1: 10, ESV
And, we don't have to tread so carefully here.