"Follow my example, though I'm a no-good sinner. Not only that, but I am likely the worst sinner you've ever met!" Would you trust someone who talked like that? Admitted to being thoroughly bad, especially if they said it in public?
Paul wrote a letter to Timothy, who was modeling his life and ministry on Paul's. In it, he said, "Trust me! I'm the worst of sinners, and I know it, but..." Among his fellow countrymen, Paul had been known as one who wanted to please God in every way. He was fanatical in doing what he thought was right.
So why was he such a bad person? Was he a robber? An adulterer? A murderer? He did kill Christians, but only in his zeal to please God.
Paul told Timothy he knew that God showed mercy to him. The point was that Paul WOULD be an example of what God's true love and forgiveness look like. Even when we mess up a church or hurt someone with words that kill the soul and break apart a congregation, God is willing to extend mercy and reconciliation to the willing and repentant.
Maybe you're the one who caused a train wreck in someone's life or ministry. Maybe someone else ruined your reputation under the guise of Christian "honesty and love." Paul's example of repentance and confession encourages us to make it right and to forgive from the heart, like God does. Then all glory and praise goes to God, who does what we cannot fathom and loves beyond our human capacity.
*Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.
But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:15-17 NIV