In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus answered a question posed by a law expert when He was asked, “What is the greatest commandment?”

Just think about this. The Savior who has come to give life and a better life than anyone could ever dream, was standing right in front of the people. Here was the One who would not only provide salvation, but also give perspective on living a life with meaning, significance, and purpose. He simply shared:

“The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The lord our God is the one and only lord. And you must love the lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these” (Mark 12: 29-31)

Recently, I was speaking to a group of people and in my introduction I shared that I had three children ages 22, 19—and 8 years old. After saying I have an 8 year old, I noticed some of the guys staring at me with funny looks on their faces that screamed, “Dude, what were you thinking?” Well, actually I put a lot of thought into it. She’s adopted!

In 2008, my wife and I had the incredible opportunity to be parents again, back at the starting line. Midnight feedings, changing diapers, and watching Veggie Tales videos again made me feel out of practice. That “new daddy” panic settled in. So, I turned to my two older children to get some advice and much needed encouragement.

At the time of our adoption, Michael and Hannah were thriving in high school. They were engaged in our church and were living a life that reflected Christ wherever they went. I was very proud of them, and often thought to myself, Kari and I must have done something right.

One night at dinner, I asked them, “I know Mom and I have made a lot of mistakes, but can you share something positive we did as your parents?”

They both jumped right in and shared things with us that were really encouraging. They shared how much they loved our “daddy devo” time together. Of course, my son made sure he pointed out that my stories were not great, but he still loved our time together at the kitchen table talking about God and praying as a family. They liked doing missions trips together. It wasn’t as much about traveling or experiencing new cultures, but spending time together and seeing God at work in the lives of people we ministered to. Most of all, they expressed how grateful they were to have a mom and dad who openly loved each other in front of them.

Life is about relationships. The rest is just details.

Everything they shared reflected back to Jesus’ statement in the Gospel of Mark. Parenting is not all about making sure our kids have the right behaviors. Rather, as Jesus reminded the Pharisees, and as my two big kids prompted me, life is about loving relationships.

Even though all families have their ups and downs, as parents we should strive to major on modeling healthy intimate relationships. It’s essential to their faith for our children to know Jesus, soak in God’s Word, and listen to His voice. To not observe and experience healthy, vibrant, and loving relationships would be a miss for our children.

Realistically speaking, our identity is marked by our relationships. Prioritizing love and affection over behavior modification in parenting helps our children’s perspective to be life-giving. This is as the Father intended, and is opposite to our culture’s answer of seeking money, pleasure, and power to fill the center stage of our souls.

Modeling relationships and what it looks like to love big and serve big can radically change our families. If our children can watch how God uses our right relationships… that is worth living for.