Time is running out in Netflix’s 3 Body Problem.

An alien race, the San-Ti, announces that they will arrive on Earth in 400 years. Before they get here, they intend to “kill” science, preventing humanity from developing the technology to wipe them out.

This otherworldly threat precipitates most of the action in the eight-episode TV series, adapted from Chinese author Liu Cixin’s popular book trilogy, Remembrance of Earth’s Past . The show focuses on a group of Oxford scientists who try valiantly to thwart the San-Ti’s devious plan. That includes theoretical physicist Jin Cheng (Jess Hong), who comes up with an outlandish scheme to intercept the San-Ti fleet using the principles of nuclear thermal propulsion.

The characters in 3 Body Problem are desperate to save themselves from impending doom through intellectual innovation and technological prowess. Their frantic race to save humanity brings a common question to the fore: What are we doing with the time we have left?

Our relationship with time is fraught. Time imposes demands and restrictions. Every day, there are deadlines to meet, deals to acquire, and dinners to cook. There isn’t “enough” time to pursue hobbies or dreams.

Compounding these pressures is our culture’s obsession with turning back the clock. Creams and serums tout the erasure of wrinkles and age spots in three to six months. Researchers study ways to extend our life span; some are even striving to reduce one’s biological age.

As we seek to slow time down, we bemoan the speed at which it passes. Vacations feel far too short. Children grow up too fast. Our loved ones pass away sooner than we expect. We turn to “slow living” in the hopes of curbing our impulse toward productivity and self-optimization. But this initiative, with its emphasis on aesthetic morning routines and meandering strolls, may be overly idealistic, privileging those who can afford to cut back on work responsibilities and adopt a more leisurely lifestyle.

In 3 Body Problem, time’s scarcity makes characters intrepid and ambitious; they get their priorities straight. “How will you be remembered?” Ye Wenjie (Rosalind Chao), the Chinese astrophysicist who invites the San-Ti to invade earth because she thinks humanity can’t save itself, asks Jin. “As someone who fought back,” Jin replies. Meanwhile, scientist Auggie Salazar (Eiza González) decides to release her nanofiber technology to the world because “it can make life better for the people who need it most. … It should belong to everybody.”

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But living with the threat of impending doom isn’t sustainable. Seeing time as a scarce resource makes us desperate; minutes and hours slip through our fingers. Even the best moments of love and connection are fleeting.

This anxiety-inducing perception of time as finite isn’t the only problem. How we understand the status of human beings can also cause us to think about time wrongly. At first, the San-Ti are curious about our kind. But eventually, they become contemptuous, blasting their judgment onto digital devices and billboards around the world: “You are bugs.”

If bugs are all we are, then there’s no hope for the time we have left. However brave, clever, or loving, we’re ultimately left defeated, bereft of any sort of agency. “They are coming,” Ye declares. No matter what, the aliens will arrive to destroy the world.

In 3 Body Problem, time means everything and nothing to a people that aren’t worth saving. In this eschatology of annihilation, there’s no possibility for change, for goodness to win over evil. Everyone’s simply muddling through, making do with what they have, and waiting for death.

For a people with hope, however, time is not limited but abundant, overflowing into all of eternity. Time is not inconsequential but sacred, moving toward the coming of Jesus. Time is not meaningless but meaningful.

An eschatology of redemption, which defines life for the Christian, invites us to carefully consider the passage of time. We can be transformed into Christlikeness even as we are like a mist that appears for a little while and vanishes (James 4:14). Our days are numbered but significant.

While some of the characters in 3 Body Problem respond to their limited time with ambition or experiments, others choose relationship. Will Downing (Alex Sharp), a physics teacher, has recently learned that he has only months to live, even aside from the aliens. (He has stage IV pancreatic cancer.) As part of physicist Jin’s project, he agrees to send his cryogenically frozen brain into outer space, hoping that the aliens will rebuild him. Will doesn’t make this sacrifice to save humankind. He makes it because he secretly loves Jin.

I’m not condoning Will’s decision to end his life (on earth, at least; in this sci-fi universe, he lives on in space as a “floating brain”). But his choice to give himself up for Jin demonstrates that love is the highest use of our limited days.

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Love doesn’t make time stop or slow it down. But love does enlarge our experience of the inexorable passing of days. It turns our attention from the temporal to the eternal. It makes the smallest moments matter—and it keeps the grand sweep of time in view.

Love is what brings Christ, our Savior, to the cross. His love traverses past, present, and future, binding believers across history together as the people of God (1 Pet. 2:9–10), called to live in ways that are pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work, and growing in knowledge of him (Col. 1:10).

As people shaped by Christ’s self-sacrificial love, we can’t give in to panicked, fatalistic despair about the days, weeks, or years we have left on this planet, whether we fear an alien apocalypse, a climate disaster, or simply growing old. We don’t need to save ourselves, like the characters in 3 Body Problem.

Instead, we can let love take its time, knowing that it won’t run out for those of us who keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2). We demonstrate this love through small, ordinary actions that say, I am here. I am with you. You are not alone. And, perhaps, this too: You are not a bug.

What does this look like in practice? Canadian author Karen Stiller recounts observing an elderly parishioner walking to receive Communion without being rushed, members of the congregation waiting patiently behind her. “There was the church beautiful in its slower, patient gait for love’s sake alone,” she observed.

“The church can offer this rare gift to its own beloved and beleaguered people, but also to whomever we meet and have the privilege of walking beside and behind for Jesus’ sake.”

The brevity of our lives is neither a problem to solve nor an unavoidable fate we face with resignation. As we confront the wasting away of our bodies, the memories that flicker just out of reach, we can choose to love as Will did—fiercely and unwaveringly. We can choose to slow down, not as a “lifestyle choice” or in denial of death but intentionally, hopefully. We can trust that our time is in our Redeemer’s hands, declaring along the way that, eventually, everything will be made new (Rev. 21:5).

Isabel Ong is the Associate Editor, Asia for Christianity Today.