While reading Daniel 4, I couldn’t help but notice the compassionate response Daniel had toward King Nebuchadnezzar (4:19). If you recall, the king had a dream which foretold his coming judgment because of his pride. The king (who apparently wrote this chapter) had the perception that Daniel did not want him to suffer under God’s judgment. He even offered advice on how to possibly escape from the judgment. This is a good example of compassion toward the lost.
My first response was to note the good attitude toward a leader and to call all Christians toward a loving, compassionate attitude toward all people and especially toward our government leaders. If Daniel could treat Nebuchadnezzar with respect (the man who probably orchestrated the death of his parents), then Christians should have this attitude toward all political leaders despite their policies, evil choices, or pretty much anything bad they might do or stand for.
But it’s just not that easy. You see, it depends on the person. If you were to continue reading the Book of Daniel, you would see that Daniel didn’t have quite the same attitude toward King Belshazzar (Dan. 5:18 ff.). Belshazzar had a great party for his wives, concubines, and officials. No doubt it was a shameful occasion that reeked of wicked behavior. And to make matters worse, the king chose to party with gold and silver cups which had been part of the temple service in Jerusalem. This definitely would not have endeared the king to Daniel.
So, why the difference in attitude? Both kings were unbelievers who were not known for their godly behavior. But Daniel reacted with compassion toward one and disgust toward the other. I guess it really depends on the circumstances. Just as it is fitting to ignore (Prov. 26:4) or confront a fool (Prov. 26:5) when necessary, so it is fitting to be compassionate toward some and to show disgust for others (Jude 22-23).
I think that this may seem difficult for some to take. It seems proper to always show compassion to those who are lost and drowning in their sin. But is this truly what God wants us to do? I don’t think so. In general, it is a good idea to show compassion toward sinful humanity. But when someone shows their disdain for God and his ways, it is appropriate to show displeasure toward such a person’s actions and attitudes. Remember Elijah and Ahab. It was not your typical “Love the lost” relationship, was it? There comes a time when ungodly people need to know the seriousness of their sin against God. And that is probably why Daniel responded the way he did toward one and not the other. It just depends.